Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane (Jazzland, 1957)

One of the most important collaborations in saxophonist John Coltrane's career was his nearly year long association with the great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. During this time period, Coltrane gave up narcotics and had a religious epiphany that would be documented in his album A Love Supreme and he had a musical epiphany by playing a multi-month gig at the Five Spot in New York and recording with Monk. This album features Monk's unique piano and compositions, Coltrane's tenor saxophone, and Colman Hawkins on tenor. So this is one of Monk's finest groups playing some of his finest compositions, little wonder the album is justly regarded as a classic. "Off Minor" has a mini big band feel with Coltrane and Hawkins together (!) with Gigi Grice on alto playing a wonderful fanfare melody before splitting off for solos. "Trinkle Trinkle" and "Nutty" have Monk and Coltrane backed by bass and drums, and wonderful solos from both men. "Functional" ends the album with a lengthy and angular piano solo. This is one of the high water marks of jazz with Monk completely in his totally unique element, and Coltrane beginning to make the string of breakthroughs that would lead him to super stardom.

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