All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Multiple Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

669

Columbia Monk

David Rickert By

Sign in to view read count
Monk’s Columbia recordings have never been as highly regarded as the Riverside sessions, some critics claiming that Monk was merely rehashing material he had previously recorded in inferior versions. However, Monk was always going to offer something new with each session, and in newly remastered versions with extended running time, Monk’s last sessions deserve another look.

Criss Cross
2003

Monk’s first record for Columbia could be accused of being a safe bet since it features a selection of classic Monk tunes instead of new material. However, don’t dismiss it too quickly. On the original recordings of these songs, the pianist played as if he was chiseling the tunes out of marble, and part of the fun was listening to what seemed very much like composition in progress. These recordings, on the other hand, sound more like finished sculptures or polished works of art.

Perhaps Monk sensed that this would be the last time he would record these tunes in the studio, or maybe Macero gave him more takes to hone a flawless performance. Nevertheless, Criss Cross was (and is) a great way for listeners unfamiliar with Monk to experience him for the first time in slightly low-key performances of classic Monk tunes. None of the songs exceeds four minutes and offer an excellent cross section of Monk’s artistry, from the lively “Hackensack” to the artfully constructed “Criss Cross” with a couple of standards thrown in, of course. “Crepuscle With Nellie” is arguably the best rendition of the tune, with Charlie Rouse displaying an empathy and understanding that not even Sonny Rollins could find. Monk may have had more interesting sidemen in his past, but Rouse gave the group a reliability it previously never had. However, “Pannonica” (not on the original LP release but added as a bonus track to the previous CD reissue) meanders too long and “Coming on the Hudson” (a brand new bonus track for this release) is a complicated tune on which not even Rouse can find footing. At any rate, an excellent fresh start.

It’s Monk’s Time
2003

It’s Monk’s Time is in many ways the least compromising of Monk’s Columbia records and the polar opposite of a record like Criss Cross (1962) due to the variety – lengthy renditions of tunes, a couple of solo performances, and a few obscure originals dusted off for the occasion. The session kicks off with what appears to be a solo recording of “Lulu’s Back in Town,” only to evolve from clunky stride into a full-blown quartet version after three minutes, approximating the way Monk approached live performances. Immediately following is one of two pleasant solo readings, both of which feature the relaxed stride and off-center rhythmic accents that Monk used so effectively when freed from the rhythm section.

For once the standards are more interesting than the originals; no classic Monk tunes are featured here, only some of Monk’s weaker compositions. The abrasive “Shuffle Boil” never quite gets off the ground, and “Stuffy Turkey” and “Brake’s Sake” are uninteresting and repetitive, respectively. However, the quartet finds inventive ways to pick through the changes and the sidemen all get ample solo time, Monk thumping out chords in the background, sounding every bit like he’s playing wearing oven mitts.

Surprisingly, the best of the original tunes wasn’t even on the original LP; an inspired reworking of “Epistrophy” casts off the cacophonous horns of the version on Monk’s Music for a smoother approach.

Not a great Monk record, but perhaps it has more to offer for the listener who finds some of the other Columbia releases to be rehashes of former work.

Underground
1967

Underground was Monk’s final quartet recording, but instead of sounding like a last gasp, the modern jazz pioneer proved he had one truly great record left in him. The set kicks off with a rousing version of “Thelonious,” an old tune that has lost none of its freshness over the decades. However, the real treat is that for once on a Columbia release, four brand new songs are featured, all of which are worthy entries into Monk’s vast catalog of off-kilter melodies. The light-hearted “Boo Boo’s Birthday” and “Green Chimneys” both feature tricky chord progressions and quirky beginnings – the latter has a 21-bar head – whereas “Raise Four” makes judicious use of the flatted fifth. The aptly-titled “Ugly Beauty” is a haunting ballad in waltz time featuring excellent soloing from Rouse. The only other older tune played is “In Walked Bud,” where Jon Hendricks steps in to add vocals.

The best improvement to the reissue is not the improved sound, however, but that each track has been restored to its original running time. The truncated versions did an injustice to the quartet, whose interplay and expertise with Monk’s style is more perfectly captured here. Perhaps the title was a joke, for Monk had not been “underground” for years. As a final recording, this CD easily ranks with Monk’s best.

Criss Cross
Tracks: 1. Hackensack 2. Tea For Two 3. Criss Cross 4. Eronel 5. Rhythm-A-Ning 6. Don’t Blame Me 7. Think Of One 8. Crepuscle With Nellie 9. Pannonica 10. Coming on the Hudson 11. Tea For Two (alt. Take) 12. Eronel (alt. take).
Personnel: Thelonius Monk – piano; Charlie Rouse – tenor sax; John Ore – bass; Frankie Dunlop – drums.

It’s Monk’s Time
Tracks: 1. Lulu’s Back in Town 2. Memories of You 3. Stuffy Turkey 4. Brake’s Sake 5. Nice Work If You Can Get It 6. Shuffle Boil 7. Epistrophy 8. Nice Work If You Can Get It (alt. take) 9. Shuffle Boil (alt. take).
Personnel: Thelonious Monk-piano; Charlie Rouse-tenor saxophone; Butch Warren-bass; Ben Riley-drums.

Underground
Tracks: 1. Thelonious 2. Ugly Beauty 3. Raise Four 4. Boo Boo’s Birthday 5. Easy Street 6. Green Chimneys 7. In Walked Bud 8. Ugly Beauty (alt. take) 9. Boo Boo’s Birthday (alt take) 10. Thelonious (alt. take).
Personnel: Thelonious Monk-piano; Charlie Rouse-tenor saxophone; Larry Gales-bass; Ben Riley-drums; Jon Hendricks-vocals (#7).


Columbia on the web: http://www.legacyrecordings.com

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy Multiple Reviews
Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy
by Doug Collette
Published: November 3, 2018
Read All Over the Map with Losen Records Multiple Reviews
All Over the Map with Losen Records
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 2, 2018
Read John Lennon's Imagine: The Ultimate Collection & Imagine/Gimme Some Truth Films Multiple Reviews
John Lennon's Imagine: The Ultimate Collection &...
by John Kelman
Published: October 28, 2018
Read Singer/songwriters from the Shadows: Jay Bolotin and Ted Lucas Multiple Reviews
Singer/songwriters from the Shadows: Jay Bolotin and Ted...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 25, 2018
Read Jacob Anderskov: Into the Mystery Multiple Reviews
Jacob Anderskov: Into the Mystery
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 22, 2018
Read Up From The Roots: Cary Morin, Colin James, Joanne Shaw Taylor & Chris Youlden Multiple Reviews
Up From The Roots: Cary Morin, Colin James, Joanne Shaw...
by Doug Collette
Published: October 21, 2018
Read "Another Timbre completes its Canadian Composers Series" Multiple Reviews Another Timbre completes its Canadian Composers Series
by John Eyles
Published: October 16, 2018
Read "Two Sides of Marc Copland: Quartet and Solo" Multiple Reviews Two Sides of Marc Copland: Quartet and Solo
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: February 25, 2018
Read "The Original Delaney & Bonnie (Accept No Substitute) and To Bonnie From Delaney" Multiple Reviews The Original Delaney & Bonnie (Accept No Substitute)...
by Doug Collette
Published: December 23, 2017
Read "Brazilian Brilliance: Kassin and Domenico Lancellotti" Multiple Reviews Brazilian Brilliance: Kassin and Domenico Lancellotti
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: May 12, 2018
Read "Two Contrasting Releases From Bertrand Denzler" Multiple Reviews Two Contrasting Releases From Bertrand Denzler
by John Eyles
Published: July 22, 2018
Read "Clean Feed 2018" Multiple Reviews Clean Feed 2018
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 9, 2018