Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thelonious Monk - Original Album Classics (Sony, 2012)

Though he was scuffling throughout, pianist and composer Thelonious Monk's profile slowly rose through the 1940's and 1950's and in 1962 he signed with the major label Columbia Records, and then even had his picture on the cover of Time magazine in 1964. This collection of Monk's music collects for albums from the mid to late 1960's, and the live albums, Misterioso (Live on Tour) and Live in Tokyo are particularly interesting. Both are with the classic late period Monk lineup of Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Butch Warren on bass and Frankie Dunlop on drums. Both show how potent the band was while playing live and how Monk was continually reinventing his own repertoire, coming at the music from new angles and dimensions. I don't think that Charlie Rouse has ever gotten the credit he deserves as a saxophone player. By this point he had been playing with Monk for several years and had intuitively absorbed the music. His tone and approach could go from being chiseled and diamond hard to soft and enveloping. Combined with Monk's percussive and staccato accompaniment, they made for a bracing group. Live in Tokyo presents one full concert from Sankei Hall on May 21, 1963, while Misterioso (Live on Tour) pulls together selected performances from 1963-1965. The Monk LP was a studio album, featuring an exciting recording of a new composition called "Teo" as the standards "Just You, Just Me" and "April in Paris." Finally, Monk's Blues is an unusual album, presenting Monk in a big band context with the arrangements by Oliver Nelson. The brass and saxophones are really shrill and right up in your face, with a particular hollow sound in the recording that adds to the nervous air of the proceedings. As strange as the settings may be, Monk remains unperturbed throughout, comping and soloing with a weary stoicism. Original Album Classics -

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