Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington
This 1955 trio album, with Oscar Pettiford on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums, was intended as an introduction to Monk’s music for the uninitiated, and it still performs that function perfectly; anybody who does not know the strange and unique world of Monk, but who wants to, would do well to listen to this album long and hard until every oblique piano run sounds familiar. John Zorn once said that in order to do justice to Monk, you need to recapture the outrageousness of his music, which Zorn did brilliantly on his contribution to the That’s the Way I Feel Now tribute-to-Monk album; ‘Shuffle Boil’ was by far the best track on that album, and is my favourite cover of a Monk tune. Monk’s original outrageousness, however, which is heard at its best on this album, is now a familiar part of the fabric of jazz.
Thelonious in Action!
Much of Monk’s recorded output consists of his quartet with Charlie Rouse on tenor, and is characterised by very long tenor, bass and drum solos, with Monk’s own solos becoming progressively more sparse with each chorus until they eventually give up the ghost. This 1958 session is entirely different, and features some characteristically burning, swinging and inventive tenor from Johnny Griffin, as well as a fully engaged Monk displaying the depth of his own unique tonal world; people say the quirky Rouse was ‘perfect for Monk’, but I wish the Griffin partnership had continued.
At Town Hall
Excellent selection of Monk tunes played by a big-band, with great arrangements, great soloists, and an appreciative live audience. The best solos, apart from those of Monk himself, who is in top form throughout, are contributed by Donald Byrd on trumpet, Pepper Adams on baritone, and Phil Woods on alto; the latter’s solo on ‘Friday the 13th’ is particularly inspired.