Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Thelonious Monk - The Complete Prestige 10-Inch LP Collection (Prestige, 2017)

The great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk recorded five ten-inch vinyl LPs for Prestige Records from 1952 to 1954, and this re-release makes them available on vinyl or digital download, allowing fans to experience a resurgent Monk playing with fire and verve. The first LP, simply entitled Thelonious is a crackling trio recording with Gary Mapp on bass and either Art Blakey or Max Roach on drums. It is a fine recording, mixing Monk compositions with standards and developing several excellent performances like on the composer's own "Little Rootie Tootie," "Bye-Ya" and "Monk's Dream" where the leader's own highly percussive and compelling piano playing syncs in well with either drummer while the bassist holds the line. Thelonious Monk Quintet Blows For LP adds brass for a particularly knotty version of "Friday the 13th" and shorter versions of "Let's Call This" and "Think of One" With Sonny Rollins and the French horn of Julius Watkins filling out the sound. Thelonious Monk Quintet puts Frank Foster in the tenor saxophone hot seat with Ray Copeland on trumpet and Art Blakey on drums, creating a lush and swinging session. Thelonious Monk Plays returns to the trio setting with bassist Percy Heath and drummer Art Blakey developing a simpatico relationship with Monk that yields particularly impressive versions of "Blue Monk" and "Nutty." Finally, Sonny Rollins And Thelonious Monk ends the collection on a very exciting note. Monk had special relationships with saxophone players like John Coltrane and Charlie Rouse and Rollins was no different, reveling in the idiosyncratic nature of Monk's compositions and approach to improvisation, blowing lustily on the standards "The Way You Look Tonight," "I Want to Be Happy" and "More Than You Know." The music on this collection has been released and re-released many times since it's inception, but given its historical context, this is an interesting way to experience it. The technology of recorded music was undergoing a big shift during this period, with the three minute limit of the 78 RPM record on the way out, being replaced with the ten and eventually twelve inch LP which was a massive boon for jazz musicians, allowing them to stretch out and improvise on record like never before. It was a transitional time for Monk too, having lost his cabaret card denied him gigging opportunities in New York City, and these LP's allowed him to document the progress he was making. Oh yeah, the music is absolutely stellar too, Monk at the height of his powers flanked by some of the greatest musicians in jazz history, what more can you ask for? Complete Prestige 10'' Collection - amazon.com

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