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Monk by Thelonious Monk Quintet

May whomever blesses, bless those hepcats at Prestige/Concord! Monk is one of those new-fangled 24-bit remastered platters du jass from the gloriously extensive catalogs of Prestige/Riverside/etc. Not sure what all that techno-gumbo means, but golly-gosh, it surely does sound fine. Monk consists of two 1950s quintet sessions, one from ’53, the other from ’54, both originally on EP singles. [Then later on LP, the OJC series, etc.]

In retrospect, this set has a veritable "all-star" lineup, but back in the ‘50s none of these hipsters had yet graduated to the ranks of Legendhood.... except for Monk, that is. It was just a bunch of fellows with some history behind them and a lot more to come: Aside from Monk, you got Sonny Rollins, Frank Foster, Art Blakey (who doesn’t get to thunder here but he struts his stuff on "Hackensack"), and Percy Heath, plus lesser-known aces Ray Copeland (gorgeous trumpet playing), the ineffably cool Julius Watkins (French horn, sounding akin to a trombone at times), and Curly Russell. The tunes are Monk classics/standards except for a tremendous "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," wherein the lads walk the line between a beautiful de-/re-construction and maintaining the sweet schmaltz of the original melody. "Locomotive" features some coolly curious percussion embellishment (like a pen hitting a beer mug?), and wee hints of ragtime inform Monk’s tribute to the megalopolis that is "Hackensack." On the latter, Foster plays some super-fine hearty, swaggering, bluesy sax. On the loopy-clever "Let’s Call This," Rollins sounds breathier than he would later (likely a Hawkins influence.... or that of Dexter Gordon?). There’re lots of neat-o surprises in store, even for fans of the Monk. As for you novices (especially the rock-oriented ones), this is a dandy place to start - just forget everything you think you know about piano and let the man and his angular, spiky, twist-y tunes enlighten you.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Thelonious Monk Quintet
  • CD Title: Monk
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Reissue Original Release: 1954
  • Record Label: Prestige/Concord Music Group
  • Rating: Five Stars
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