Friday, January 23, 2015

Thelonious Monk - Thelonious Monk Trio (Prestige, 1952-1954, Reissue 2007)

Pianist and composer Thelonious Monk was at a crossroads in his career when this album was recorded. The New York City police department had conspired to take away his cabaret card, which was necessary for performing live in New York City and he had not put out recordings in a few years. Monk had released a series of groundbreaking 78's for Blue Note, but this was his first LP length album. Supported by either Gary Mapp or Percy Heath on bass and either Max Roach or Art Blakey on drums, the album consists of some of his most well known compositions. The album has some of Monk's most familiar compositions like a riveting version of "Blue Monk" plus a witty solo rendition of "Just a Gigolo." "Bemsha Swing" gets a ripe and angular reading, with percussive keyboards battling the drums for supremacy, and Monk sounding quite avant-garde, with a repetitive strong section. One can just imagine Cecil Taylor taking notes. He is wonderful on "Little Rootie Tootie" playing snatches of the melody and then batting them down with three banging chords. "Bye-Ya" takes advantage of some great rattling and ramshackle drumming to make a fun and exciting performance. Some moaning scat punctuates a fine version for "Trinkle, Tinkle" and again it is the way that Monk engages with the drums that make the track all the more special. This is a wonderful album, and it is very interesting to hear Thelonious Monk in this trio setting and it is the empathetic support that throws Monk's idiosyncratic genius into bold relief. Thelonious Monk Trio [RVG Remaster] - amazon.com

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