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Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Himself [Riverside OJCCD-254-2]


Stabbing/stride-derived chords + starkly naked & (yet) strangely familiar rhythm/lead melody lines...and, all driven from the same roots as anything else we can guess... Yes...this (truly) is Thelonious himself - not only one of the crucial root-notes of be-bop, but - and, more importantly - also, one of the key players any musician should hear. And, this (perhaps) is the very best place to start...

Monk, sadly, was basically ignored by the second bop generation...only to be re-discovered/deified by those subsequent... And this - recorded in 1957, amidst the veritable changeover - remains (perhaps) the best introduction to his particular voice.

Ending w/a trio w/Coltrane, the rest remains some of the finest solo Monk ever recorded...split (as was his practice) between idiosyncratic readings of standards & his own compositions - many to become standards in their own right.

His jagged - yet lyrical - approach has (in essence) been fundamental to all subsequent jazz - without doubt...and, yet, his own voice - as a player - remains inimitable, and (as such) needs to be heard (in itself) by all musicians that truly care about such things...

And - of course - all other so-called “musicians” are not worth shit.

Meanwhile, the trio, itself, is a remarkable thing. In 57, Coltrane was hardly a finished stylist - whilst Monk was (arguably) at his peak. So, “Monk’s Mood” - the final track here - is (essentially) what the formative Coltrane made of a Monk ballad at the latter’s veritable high...and, a truly beautiful thing it it is...even if we are not supposed to use such words about art, in these sadly diminished days...

But - still - and, still is a fine word for the speaking spaces w/in Monk - for those who’ve yet to hear dear Thelonious - this is (perhaps) the very best place to start. Combining, as it does, an album’s worth of solo playing at his peak - and a thoughtful trio w/the young Coltrane - it is a purely masterful introduction to the unique world of Mr Monk...

And, styles/genres/technologies may change - and, indeed, they have - repeatedly....but, lest we forget, all musicians purely need to hear the masters...those whose inner ear resounds to tunes that the rest of us merely guess at.

And Monk - no doubt about it - is one of same...and, so - whatever our generic calling/and whatever our instrumental choice - we need to hear this man, as soon as we can...and, this album is (perhaps) our very best way to listen first...

And...listen we should.




John Henry Calvinist