528

Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington

David Rickert By

Sign in to view read count
Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington Alfred Lion was so captivated by Monk that once he got him in the studio, he recorded everything he had. However, most of the jazz listening public wasn’t quite open to such a maverick approach, and Monk struggled to find an audience early on. Once Monk hopped to Riverside after a brief stint at Prestige, producer Orrin Keepnews decided his first record needed to be a collection of Ellington songs. Ellington was an established artist with a wide selection of popular tunes, and thus the session proved to be one that was still a showcase for Monk’s inimitable style, yet without the angular melodies that some found abrasive.

However, with the benefit of hindsight, the Ellington record seems fairly tame, and those who have been enthralled with the Blue Note recordings, or the later Brilliant Corners, or virtually anything else in Monk’s repertoire, may find that they haven’t missed anything with this one. Still, a Monk record of any kind is going to be a worthy investment, and it’s always intriguing to see how Monk constructs other artist’s work with his own set of tools.

In this case, Monk approached every tune at an ambling pace, as if he’s still picking out the notes for the tunes (which, judging by the liner notes, may have been the case). Even “It Don’t Mean A Thing” is taken at a pace that would have put Sonny Greer to sleep, and only “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart” and a masterfully rhythmic “Caravan” show any degree of propulsion. The majority of the record lags a bit, as if Monk wasn’t quite committed to the concept, and the ballads are a bit too forcefully played, when they could benefit from a softer touch.

The rhythm section holds its own quite well, and Pettiford especially seems more at home with the Ellington material than the Monk originals that would give him fits on later sessions. However, once freed from the bass and drums, Monk turns in a classic solo reading of, appropriately enough, “Solitude,” and it will be here that most Monk fans will find that they have found their home, with the subtly shifting tempos and the strong stride inflections left hand.

Ironically, in the attempt to make Monk more accessible, Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington only obscures what makes Monk so captivating in the first place. Although these renditions are pleasant, one longs for an oddity like “Straight, No Chaser” or “Hackensack” to shake things up. A worthy addition to any serious Monk collection, but those familiar with Monk’s other work may find themselves more absorbed in figuring out what the hell the cover has to do with anything than with the music itself.


Visit Fantasy Jazz on the web.

Track Listing: 1. It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) 2. Sophisticated Lady 3. I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) 4. Black and Tan Fantasy 5. Mood Indigo 6. I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart 7. Solitude 8. Caravan.

Personnel: Thelonious Monk-piano; Oscar Pettiford-bass; Kenny Clarke-drums.

Year Released: 1955 | Record Label: Fantasy Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Overseas V CD/LP/Track Review Overseas V
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Salão Brazil CD/LP/Track Review Salão Brazil
by John Sharpe
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Overseas V CD/LP/Track Review Overseas V
by Troy Collins
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Behind The Mist CD/LP/Track Review Behind The Mist
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Sedimental You CD/LP/Track Review Sedimental You
by John Sharpe
Published: March 30, 2017
Read Disappeared Behind the Sun CD/LP/Track Review Disappeared Behind the Sun
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 29, 2017
Read "Rope" CD/LP/Track Review Rope
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 6, 2016
Read "Nomade Orquestra" CD/LP/Track Review Nomade Orquestra
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 5, 2016
Read "Live In The South Bronx" CD/LP/Track Review Live In The South Bronx
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "All These Hands" CD/LP/Track Review All These Hands
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 20, 2016
Read "Lowdown Hoedown" CD/LP/Track Review Lowdown Hoedown
by Paul Rauch
Published: January 18, 2017
Read "Earprint" CD/LP/Track Review Earprint
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 14, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

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!