Thelonious Monk: Monk 'Round the World (2004)
As might be expected, the quality of the recordings varies. Still, producer Joel Dorn manages to squeeze a lot of sound out of them, creating an aural consistency that makes the one-hour CD a good documentation of what Monk's set list around that time might have been. The DVD quality is a little shakier, the sound being more muffled; still, it's a fascinating chance to see Monk at work, with arguably the finest ensemble he ever had. On both disks Monk's wry humour comes through in every note, with Rouse playing the straight man to Monk's more idiosyncratic playing.
By presenting a programme of six extended tunes that cover many, but not all, of Monk's most well-known pieces"Epistrophy," "Blue Monk," "Ruby My Dear," "Rhythm a Ning," "Bemsha Swing" and "Hanckensack"the CD is a perfect introduction for new listeners, and clearly of archival interest to Monk fans. Regardless of who is holding down the rhythm section, Monk and Rouse demonstrate that there's nothing wrong with looking for new ways to approach existing material. Keith Jarrett has said that it's not the choice of material, it's what you do with itand at this stage in his life, while Monk may not have been composing much, his explorations into the nooks and crannies of his tunes were as vital as ever.
Monk 'Round the World puts together a number of outstanding performances and gives the listener a chance not only to hear Monk in action during some of his best years performing, but to see him as well. It shows that Monk truly was, as Dorn puts it, "the past, the present and the future all at once."
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Track Listing: Epistrophy; Blue Monk; Ruby My Dear; Rhythm a Ning; Bemsha Swing; Hackensack; Epistrophy (closing theme)
Personnel: Thelonious Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone), John Ore (bass on "Epistrophy," "Rhythm A Ning," "Bemsha Swing"), Butch Warren (bass on "Blue Monk," "Ruby My Dear," "Epistrophy (closing theme)"), Larry Gales (bass on "Hackensack"), Frankie Dunlop (drums on "Epistrophy," "Rhythm A Ning," "Bemsha Swing"), Ben Riley (drums on "Blue Monk," "Ruby My Dear," "Epistrophy (closing theme)," "Hackensack")
DVD content: Thelonious Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone), Larry Gales (bass), Ben Riley (drums)
Record Label: Hyena Records