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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.
Track Listing: 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.