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 Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Heritage" CD/LP/Track Review Heritage
by James Nadal
Published: October 3, 2016
Read "Miniatures" CD/LP/Track Review Miniatures
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 20, 2016
Read "Duet" CD/LP/Track Review Duet
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "Araminta" CD/LP/Track Review Araminta
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 17, 2017
Read "Reflection" CD/LP/Track Review Reflection
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: January 14, 2017
Read "Joyride" CD/LP/Track Review Joyride
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 27, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

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!