The first thing you notice about Monk is the clipped phrases and unexpected turns in his compositions. With Charlie Rouse and above average rhythm sidemen, Thelonious Monk always turned heads. This three-disc compilation includes his familiar compositions as well as those not quite so familiar. They’re all fascinating and worthy of dedicated study.
Disc One centers on reissued studio sessions in trio and quartet format. At the piano, Monk thrills with his use of unique tone clusters and devil-may-care keyboard rants. There’s always a high level of energy, even though the tempo varies from a slow and deliberate “Pannonica” to a jumpin’ and jivin’ “In Walked Bud.” Jon Hendricks parades both lyrics and scat singing proudly around the classic tune.
Disc Two combines big bands in both studio and live sessions with solo piano and quartet segments in concert. Monk’s piano work stands apart as powerfully percussive and full of vigor. The take presented here of “Blue Monk” with studio big band swings with passion and heats up considerably. Soloist Rouse is in fine form. It’s a different take than that released in 1994 on the CD reissue of Monk’s Blues. From a 1967 solo piano concert performance in Puebla, Mexico, Monk performs “Don’t Blame Me” with deliberately slow and meaningful expression. “I Mean You” is from Columbia’s 1963 LP Big Band And Quartet In Concert, also released on CD in ’94 by Sony. Thad Jones, Charlie Rouse, Frankie Dunlop and Phil Woods contribute exciting solos alongside Monk’s fresh performance.
Disc Three offers live Monk performances in concert and club settings, with both small and large ensembles. At the Newport Jazz Festival with Pee Wee Russell, and at the Monterey Jazz Festival with a nonet, Monk and Rouse swing heartily. In Stockholm, Monk is with a small ensemble that includes Johnny Griffin, Phil Woods and Ray Copeland. At the It club in Los Angeles, he’s in vintage form with Rouse, Larry Gales and Ben Riley.
Columbia’s compilation runs for three and a half hours and includes no alternate takes or incomplete segments. While many of these pieces are classic Monk compositions, producer Orrin Keepnews has decided to repeat nothing and present each one at its best. This chapter in Jazz’s history is a vital one that has been preserved well for our generation and for those who are just starting out.
Track Listing: Bye-Ya; Coming on the Hudson; Rhythm-A-Ning; Think of One; Pannonica; Crepuscule With Nellie; April in Paris; Ugly Beauty; Honeysuckle Rose; In Walked Bud; Thelonious; Reflections; Blue Monk;
Personnel: Thelonious Monk- piano; Pee Wee Russell- clarinet; Steve Lacy- soprano saxophone; Phil Woods- alto saxophone, clarinet; Buddy Collette- alto saxophone, other reeds; Ernie Watts, Gene Cipriano- alto saxophone; Johnny Griffin, Tom Scott, Charlie Rouse- tenor saxophone; Jack Nimitz, Ernie Small- baritone saxophone; Gene Allen- baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Thad Jones- cornet; Nick Travis, Bobby Bryant, Conte Candoli, Freddie Hill, Melvin Moore, Ray Copeland- trumpet; Eddie Bert, Lou Blackburn, Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Byers, Mike Wimberly, Jimmy Cleveland- trombone; John Ore, Butch Warren, Steve Swallow, Larry Gales- bass; Frankie Dunlop, John Guerin, Ben Riley- drums; Howard Roberts- guitar on