286

Thelonious Monk: The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside

By

Sign in to view read count
Thelonious Monk: The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside One fundamental paradox of compilation albums is the way so many good ones ultimately render themselves useless. Consider how many hits packages sit untouched on the shelves of aficionados, doomed to a lifetime of neglect simply for having the gall to work efficiently as the conversion tools they were intended to be. Consequently, a great compilation requires a functionality beyond simply being a commercially-endorsed mix CD. The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside spans the great pianist/composer's most revered era (1952-1960), and appears outwardly as nothing special: It unearths nothing unfamiliar, runs in obvious chronological order, and culls almost strictly from records that are worth owning in full. However, this collection illustrates contrasts that the LP's don't; in a micro sense, it's absolutely worthy of its title.

For example, the same recording of "Caravan" which felt stiff and tentative capping off 1955's uncharacteristically reverent Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington feels light and airy here, a rest stop on the road from the reflective nine-plus minute "Bemsha Swing" (from Miles Davis' 1954 Modern Jazz Giants session) to 1956's mathematically impossible "Brilliant Corners." These little disparities butt heads everywhere—from his smallest format (solo readings of "'Round Midnight" and "Ruby, My Dear") to his largest ("Little Rootie Tootie" from 1959's gargantuan Town Hall Orchestra date), his best-traveled vintages (a 1957 septet take on "Well, You Needn't") to his most impulsive sounds (the celeste/piano standoff on "Pannonica"), this is T.S. Monk at his broadest and most articulate.

Throughout, the leader employs the stable of tenor men he helped make famous: A barely-drinking age Sonny Rollins (whose soloing on 1954's "I Want to Be Happy" seems particularly attuned to just that); a John Coltrane on the cusp of turning his harmonic vocabulary into an entirely new language; the wickedly funny Johnny Griffin (who joyously drops a few licks from "Surrey With the Fringe On Top" into "Nutty" from 1958's Misterioso); and the stoic Charlie Rouse, who uses "Straight, No Chaser" to test his mettle as wing man for the victory lap that Monk would take for Columbia in the 1960s.

Each uniquely personal style coalesces atop Monk's piano, which is so unmistakable that it's incapable of going rogue even when it tries. These are his beloved quirks—the bouncy lines that threaten fluidity before crashing into brick walls of dissonant chords; the spaces between notes which the pianist adopts as his mental workspace; the solos too shrewd to disregard the heads that weren't being played straight to begin with. On this foundation, the whole collection unfolds as a kind of commemorative mural—a celebration of an American original whose songbook and style are as immortal as they are inimitable. You may snag this collection as a novice, and ten years from now you may find yourself writing a reference book on Monk bootlegs. But don't be surprised if this is the disc you catch yourself reaching for even then.


Track Listing: CD1: Bye-Ya; We See; Blue Monk; I Want to Be Happy; Bemsha Swing; Caravan; Tea For Two; Pannonica; Brilliant Corners; 'Round Midnight. CD2: Well, You Needn't; Off Minor (Take 5); Epistrophy; Trinkle, Tinkle; Rhythm-a-ning; Evidence; Nutty; Little Rootie Tootie; Straight, No Chaser; Ruby, My Dear; Four in One (Take 2).

Personnel: Thelonious Monk: piano; Gary Mapp: bass (CD1#2); Art Blakey: drums (CD1#1-3, CD1#7, CD#1-3), Ray Copeland: trumpet (CD1#2, CD2#1); Frank Foster: tenor saxophone (CD1#2), Curly Russell: bass (CD1#2); Sonny Rollins: tenor saxophone (CD1#4, CD1#8,-9); Tommy Potter: bass (CD1#4); Art Taylor: drums (CD1#4, CD2#8-9); Miles Davis: trumpet (CD1#5); Milt Jackson: vibes (CD1#5); Percy Heath: bass (CD1#5); Kenny Clarke: drums (CD1#5-6); Oscar Pettiford: bass (CD1#6- 9); Ernie Henry: alto saxophone (CD1#8-9); Max Roach: drums (CD1#8-9); Gigi Gryce: alto saxophone (CD2#1-3); John Coltrane: tenor saxophone (CD2#1- 4); Coleman Hawkins: tenor saxophone (CD2#1-3); Wilbur Ware: bass (CD2#1-5); Shadow Wilson: drums (CD2#4-5); Gerry Mulligan: baritone saxophone (CD2#5); Johnny Griffin: tenor saxophone (CD2#6-7); Ahmed Abdul-Malik: bass (CD2#6-7); Roy Haynes: drums (CD2#6-7); Jay McAllister: tuba (CD2#8); Robert Northern: French horn (CD2#8); Eddie Bert: trombone (CD2#8); Donald Byrd: trumpet (CD2#8); Pepper Adams: baritone saxophone (CD2#8); Charlie Rouse: tenor saxophone (CD2#8-9, CD2#11); Phil Woods: alto saxophone (CD2#8); Sam Jones: bass (CD2#8); Thad Jones: cornet (CD2#9); Joe Gordon: trumpet (CD2#11); John Ore: bass (CD2#11); Billy Higgins: drums (CD2#11).

Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Concord Music Group | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Cactus" CD/LP/Track Review Cactus
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 24, 2016
Read "Brasil L.I.K.E" CD/LP/Track Review Brasil L.I.K.E
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 30, 2016
Read "The Last Remaining Payphone in L.A." CD/LP/Track Review The Last Remaining Payphone in L.A.
by Paul Naser
Published: October 18, 2016
Read "Sea Ahead" CD/LP/Track Review Sea Ahead
by James Nadal
Published: July 28, 2016
Read "What Do I Miss" CD/LP/Track Review What Do I Miss
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 10, 2016
Read "ScratchBop" CD/LP/Track Review ScratchBop
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 28, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!