Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thelonious Monk ‎– Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (Sam Records, 2017)

In what must surely be acknowledged as one of the most important archival issues of the year, this album consists of two discs of the great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk adapting his own personal music for film, accompanied by an excellent group featuring Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Sam Jones on bass and Art Taylor on drums, with saxophonist Barney Wilen also sitting in on a few tracks. 1959 was a pivotal year for jazz and Monk was in the thick of it, while he didn't compose any new music for this project, he powers through some of his own most widely known songs with great vigor and passion. Two versions of "Rhythm-a-Ning" are included and both the master and alternate are muscular performances, with ripe saxophone playing, fast paced bass and drum accompaniment, and Monk's unique percussive piano playing that sounds truly inspired, rippling across the keyboard and stabbing at individual notes. There are also two versions of the ballad "Crepuscule With Nellie" included, with the much longer master version making excellent use of the two saxophone front line for texture, and the alternate dropping out after a few minutes. There were even plans to issue some of this music on 45 RPM records, with separate versions of a dreamy "Pannonica" and gently bouncing "Light Blue" cut for this purpose. "Well You Needn't" is heard in a concise edited form and then later in the full unedited version, both of which are worthy, with Rouse demonstrating how attuned he was becoming to Monk's music, which he would play for the next decade as a member of the pianist's group and then continue to interpret as a solo musician and in the underrated group Sphere. Monk is as spiritedly impish as always on both version, with his piano instantly identifiable and sounding like on one else. The final track is a fly on the wall version of "Light Blue" as the band works through the tune and Monk instructs the musicians on how to play their parts. With Monk explaining the time and rhythm, it's a fascinating look behind the curtain at the man and his music. Much of Monk's music has a cinematic or narrative feel to it, so the lack of any new music for the film hardly matters. The band came into the studio and laid down over an hour of jazz of the highest quality, and fans of Monk or classic jazz in general will be very pleased with the results. Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 - amazon.com

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