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Thelonious Monk / Sonny Rollins: Thelonius Monk & Sonny Rollins

Douglas Payne By

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Hard as it is to believe, states this disc's back-cover blurb, "Thelonious Monk was widely dismissed as an eccentric, while many found the young Sonny Rollins's tenor far too aggressive compared to the then-cool norm." As time passed, though, Monk became progressively more Monk-like (and less likely to explore anything outside of his own increasingly familiar repertoire) and Rollins continued to carve out an aggressively individual style of his own. Today, Thelonius Monk & Sonny Rollins seems positively tamed by everything that followed from these two jazz mavericks. This disc, the culmination of two Monk-Rollins sessions in 1953 and 1954 and a Monk trio session from 1954, contains several significant highlights. Prominent among these is the premiere recording of Monk's spiky "Friday The 13th" (recorded on just such a day in November 1953), featuring Monk, Rollins, bassist Percy Heath, drummer Willy Jones and, oddly enough, French Horn man Julius Watkins. The trio session (without Rollins), featuring bassist Heath and drummer Art Blakey, debuted Monk's own quirky "Work" and the appropriately titled "Nutty." A later session from October 1954 reunites Monk with Rollins—and bassist Tommy Potter and drummer Art Taylor—for the popular tunes, "The Way You Look Tonight" and "I Want To Be Happy" (a niche that Rollins absolutely personified: taking corny pop tunes and making commendable jazz classics out of them). It's an appealing, bop-based session, but nowhere near as pronounced or as definitive as these two iconoclasts and genuine jazz titans proved to be separately elsewhere.

Title: Thelonius Monk & Sonny Rollins | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Prestige Records


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