Thelonious Monk: Underground (2003)
The cover of this album is an interesting one. Was Monk’s sense of humor at work? Whatever the answer, the music that it contains is elevating. This expanded edition expiates the shortcomings of the original release where tunes had to be edited so that they could be contained on an LP. The record features four new Monk compositions, including “Ugly Beauty” and “Boo Boo’s Birthday,” which have alternate takes on this release. The last track is also a bonus.
As was his wont, Monk revels in the angular and odd meters. But there are passages where his approach seems to be straightforward. What at first instance seems to be a routine declamation takes on a meaning of its own. Monk opens “Raise Four” with a series of repeated motifs that teeter on indulgence. But when he intersperses them in the middle of the song, the stance takes on a new meaning; imagination has transcended the ordinary. His dialog with Gales, where the bassist first takes a walking line and then moves to arco, is riveting. Rouse and Riley are upfront on “Green Chimneys,” the tenor full bodied and swinging, the drums accenting, filling spaces and energising the flow. Monk is exuberant and playful, keeping his usual structural disseminations at bay.
There are many more scintillating times: in the gentle lilt of the waltz “Green Chimneys”; in the pulsating tangents from Rouse during “Boo Boo’s Birthday,” where Monk satiates with the colors he evokes through straight-ahead improvisation; and when Jon Hendricks comes up to sing on “In Walked Bud,” even if it is only for the rarity of the happening. At the end of it all, this assumes its rightful place as another worthy part of the Monk canon.
Track Listing: Thelonious; Ugly Beauty; Raise Four; Boo Boo
Personnel: Thelonious Monk