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, Monks Mood
- the final track here - is (essentially) what the formative
Coltrane made of a Monk ballad at the latters 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 whove yet to hear dear
Thelonious - this is (perhaps) the very best place to
start. Combining, as it does, an albums 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