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Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane

Among Thelonious Monk's long stays at New York's legendary Five Spot was a six-month period in 1957 with possibly his most brilliant band, with John Coltrane finding fuel in Monk's music for his harmonic explorations. The quartet only recorded three studio tracks: a sublime reading of Monk's ballad "Ruby, My Dear"; a loping version of "Nutty"; and a stunning version of "Trinkle Tinkle" on which Trane's tenor mirrors Monk's piano part. The CD is completed with outtakes from an octet session that joined Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins and an extended solo version of "Functional." --Stuart Broomer

Brilliant Corners

Few composers or improvisers can match the originality of pianist Thelonious Monk. Quirky yet rigorously logical, Monk's playful but always purposeful choice of skewed melodies and interrupted rhythm patterns gave the bebop movement, and jazz in total, a new sound that was totally modern. Although he created a surprisingly limited body of compositions, his impact on the vocabulary and canon of jazz is second to none, including such prolific giants as Duke Ellington. Brilliant Corners is a triumph of both performance and conception: the two small-group sessions, anchored by Monk, drummer Max Roach, and the bass work of either Oscar Pettiford or Paul Chambers, feature superb front-line performances by saxophonists Sonny Rollins and the tragically under-recorded Ernie Henry, as well as trumpeter Clark Terry. The title track, which centers the collection, is one of Monk's most unconventional pieces, skirting whole-tone, chromatic and Lydian scales; a version of "Pannonica" finds Monk doubling on celeste, while the band stretches out on "Bemsha Swing" and the blues "Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are." --Fred Goodman


Straight, No Chaser

If you love Jazz or just love great musical compositions, then Straight, No Chaser will become an instant favorite. Even if you have heard Straight, No Chaser, years ago, this updated reissue is something very special to the ears. Beautiful playing all the way around. Recording quality that will make you feel very good and tunes that will put bounce in your heart. Timeless Jazz that will quickly confirm why some people say that in Jazz, and music in general, never has there been anyone like Thelonius Monk. The other great thing about this CD is that it is a great value. Here is a whole lot of music and not a single cut will you want to skip over. Pop this in your player and be pleased.




Monk's Dream

Thelonious Sphere Monk was 45 when he began work in 1962 on Monk's Dream, his first recording for a big mainstream label. Thus, the 8 tracks here, a mixture of Monk originals and standards, present the bop pianist at a career peak, documenting music that is both challenging and immediately accessible. Playing with his touring quartet, Monk makes each song his own, finding a typically quirky melody line within the romance of "Body and Soul" or the swing of "Bright Mississippi." Tenor saxman Charles Rouse adds some soothing horn soloing, but it's Monk's bright, intuitive playing that makes this a late bop milestone. Timeless.




Best of the Blue Note Years

Blue Note was the first company to give Thelonious Monk the opportunity to record as a leader, and he brought many of his great compositions to these 1947-52 sessions for their first recordings, with groups that included gifted and sympathetic players like drummer Art Blakey and vibraphonist Milt Jackson. This CD's 15 selections contain classic early renditions of the great ballads like "Ruby My Dear" and "'Round Midnight," as well as then-exotic pieces like "Epistrophy" and "Straight, No Chaser" that have since become standard jazz repertoire. Originally released as 78 rpm records, these compressed renditions highlight Monk's innovative structures. This is a distillation of the four-CD Complete Blue Note Recordings, which generously covers this entire, fertile early period.



Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk

In 1957 Thelonious Monk still lived at the edges of acceptance by a larger jazz audience, and Art Blakey's signature group was in the midst of a long formative phase. With Bill Hardman's cutting, raw-edged trumpet and Johnny Griffin's gruff and coiling tenor, Blakey's band was a looser, less defined, but more intense unit than it would become later with in-house composers like Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons, and Wayne Shorter. When Blakey and Monk, longtime friends and associates, made this date playing some of Monk's core material, the Messengers became virtually a Monk ensemble and one of the most inspired to record. A year later, Griffin would be a regular member of Monk's quartet, and this disc demonstrates why.



Thelonious Monk Trio (20 Bit Mastering)

Thelonious Monk could really shine in the trio setting, where his unflagging creativity and memorable tunes could occupy the spotlight. These ten selections from '52 to '54 showcase that side of Monk wonderfully; and almost all of them are brief (less than 4 minutes), providing bite-sized intros to a nice chunk of his material. As a bonus, the drummers (Art Blakey or Max Roach) understand Monk's conception perfectly. Three of the tunes feature Monk's idiosyncratic playing on standards ("Sweet and Lovely", "These Foolish Songs", and the solo feature "Just a Gigolo"). The other seven are recording debuts of songs that would become jazz standards -- "Monk's Dream", "Little Rootie Tootie", "Trinkle Tinkle", etc. And the definite highlight is "Blue Monk", Monk's unforgettable blues (duh), where he gets to stretch out over 8 minutes with Blakey egging him on. Monk is often described as a "difficult" pianist due to his angular playing, but listeners often identify with his quirky-yet-catchy tunes and wry sense of humor. This (along with Volumes 1 and 2 of the Genius of Modern Music series on Blue Note) is the perfect introduction to the man and his music, as well as to jazz piano in general.


Charlie Christian/Dizzy Gillespie/Thelonious Monk







Thelonious Alone in San Francisco

Thelonious Monk was a brilliant improviser, using his incredible rhythmic sense and his harmonic ingenuity to find new possibilities in his own works or standards while touching on the wellsprings of the blues and early jazz piano styles. Those gifts were never more apparent than in his whimsical and inspired solo performances, like this one from 1959. In addition to the usual fare, Monk could always reach into a treasure trove of pop songs others had forgotten. Here he makes original music out of the ancient and ephemeral "There's Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie," and he manages to do it on two separate takes.




Thelonious in Action: Recorded at the Five Spot Cafe







Straight No Chaser [EXTRA TRACKS]

Thelonious Monk stands as one of the great, oblique giants of 20th-century jazz. And while a single disc can never hope to encompass his triumphant art and eccentric, ultimately tragic personal life, this soundtrack offers up considerably more than merely a sketch of Monk's unvarnished genius. Launching from a sound bite ("Now I'm famous--ain't that a bitch?!") that tips listeners to the pianist-composer's troubled relationship with his own legacy, this anthology actually expands on the film (which centers around a trove of long-lost mid-'60s European tour footage). It offers up key studio and live recordings, a pair of rare, private solo performances ("Panonica" and a typically playful cover of "Lulu's Back in Town"), sprinkled with spare interview excerpts by Monk Jr. and sax player Charlie Rouse, a frequent late-'60s collaborator and member of the legendary octet featured here in three rare live European performances of "Epistrophy," "Evidence," and "I Hear You." Now expanded with the full, 11-plus-minute 1967 New York studio recording of the title track and newly annotated liner notes, this soundtrack serves as a compelling introduction to Monk's truly unique musical legacy--and, along with Bird, a tribute to executive producer Clint Eastwood's dedication to America's rich jazz history.

Monk Alone: The Complete Solo Studio