This Super Audio (SACD) version of the 1957 meeting between these two modern masters is enhanced by the addition of three alternate takes. The results are magic. What’s not to like? An historic meeting of two of the most distinctive voices in jazz reissued in one of the most distinctive of audio formats. The results are chillingly exciting. Chalk that up to the music more than the format, of course.
In August 1957, the principals were at the top of their respective games. Mulligan was one of the Kings of the West Coast style and the most important baritone player to come down the road since Harry Carney; Monk was the High Priest of Bop. With bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Shadow Wilson on the session, the quartet assays nine cuts, including the new alternate bonus versions on Monk classics.
Following a wonderfully played "Round Midnight," the players move into a delightful "Rhythm-A-Ning," on which Mulligan especially shines with upper register work that sends shivers, still. Monk’s comping is inspired here before the leaders trade rolls and Monk takes a dazzling turn on the lead. For "Sweet and Lovely," they blow with and off of each other. The two takes on "Decidedly" are wonderfully contrasted in their recording quality as well as the playing. Mulligan seems to descend through Monk’s playing on both, though the second of the two ("Take 5") was recorded in mono due to the stereo recorder breaking down during the recording. The result is a starkly magnificent recording. Early stereo was not always as impressive as mono. Though the process had been pretty well perfected by the time of these sessions, there is still something warmer and cleaner about the mono.
"Straight, No Chaser" also benefits from two takes, labeled #3 and #1. The second was that labeled #1 and it sounds slightly more sprightly. For the closing pair of takes on "I Mean You," one of Monk’s more interesting and challenging to play numbers, Monk takes the first solo and Mulligan again showcases his mastery of the upper register. The second version (#2) is nearly identical, though it sounds a bit fuller. This is a classic recording. The addition of the three alternate takes and the recasting in the SACD format makes it that much more tantalizing.