| || Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1 (Blue Note, 1947) |
Rarely are an artist's first sessions as a leader so important and influential: Introduces the classics "'Round Midnight," "Well, You Needn't," and "Ruby, My Dear," his ballad to his first love, each precision crafted with a modern jazz all-star galaxy.
| || Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 2 (Blue Note, 1951) |
Once more with Blakey, Dorham, Roach and the rest, this time on a complete set of originals including "Straight No Chaser" and the challenging "Four in One" and "Criss Cross." Navigating the sharp corners, Monk and "Bags" Jackson swing playful and joyous.
| || Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins (Prestige, 1954) |
Two giants - one established, one emerging - in the awakening new music free-spiritedly romp through "I Want to Be Happy," "The Way You Look Tonight" and Monk's "Friday the Thirteenth." Monk's characteristic harmonic and rhythmic inventions seem to feed and flow through Rollins' exhaustive streams of ideas.
| || Plays Duke Ellington (Riverside, 1955) |
Purely as pianist: With Kenny Clarke and Oscar Pettiford, Monk mines new treasure from a revelatory, affectionate set of familiar Ellingtonia. "It Don?t Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and Monk swings for sure. Perhaps the best introduction to Monk?s piano style.
| || Brilliant Corners (1956, Milestone) |
A major bebop milestone in terms of personnel (Rollins, Pettiford, Roach, plus echoes of an era from Clark Terry on "Bemsha Swing") and program (the title track and "Pannonica," where Monk twinkles on archaic celeste). "I Surrender, Dear" is one of Monk's most strong yet tender solos.
| || Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (Milestone, 1957) |
Mainly recorded during a legendary engagement at the Five Spot, Coltrane proves one of the few musicians who could double Monk in "Trinkle, Tinkle" and sing suitably sweet and low to "Ruby, My Dear." 'Trane also pairs with Coleman Hawkins on two alternates from the larger Monk's Music ensemble sessions.
| || Monk's Music (Riverside, 1957) |
Monk revisits (as he often did) some of what had become his standards, with Hawk and 'Trane as twin tenors and Blakey dropping rhythmic bombs like landmines in the crags and hollows of Monk's music. The ultimate version of "Well, You Needn't" and a romantic "Ruby, My Dear" with Hawkins.
| || Thelonious Alone in San Francisco (Riverside, 1959) |
Languid and lyrical solo reflections upon "Blue Monk," "Pannonica" and "Ruby, My Dear," the rare "Bluehawk" and flourished pop standards ("Everything Happens to Me," "You Took the Words Right Out of My Heart"), crowned with five minutes of sustained brilliant "Reflections."
| || Monk?s Dream (Columbia, 1962) |
His first Columbia record, a comfortable archetype: Re-explored compositions, bright solo pieces (the exquisite "Body and Soul" and "Just a Gigolo"), and funky blues, plus one or two new recordings (the joyful "Bright Mississippi"). Features one of his longest-running bands (Rouse, John Ore, Frankie Dunlop).
| || Big Band and Quartet Live in Concert (Columbia, 1963) |
Solo, quartet, and large ensemble including Thad Jones, Phil Woods, and Monk devotee Steve Lacy. Several of Hall Overton's orchestrations, voiced and adapted from the piano and horn charts on Monk?s original piece, are amazing (the complex "Four in One" and sassy "I Mean You").
| || Solo Monk (Columbia, 1964) |
Echoes of powerful stride piano thunder through a repertoire of originals and original takes on "These Foolish Things," "I'm Confessin'" and other classics that illuminate this most modern pianist's deep connection to Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. Monk's only solo album for Columbia.
| || Underground (Columbia, 1967) |
Four new originals, including "Ugly Beauty," the new blues "Raise Four" and the oft-covered "Green Chimneys," plus the rarity of Monk with vocals as Jon Hendricks chirps into "In Walked Bud." "Thelonious" would come full circle, appearing on Genius Volume 1 , here, and on Monk's last recording (in 1972 with the Giants of Jazz).