Monday, October 5, 2009

Thelonious MONK - Misterioso 1958

Thelonious Monk - Misterioso 1958
Label: OJC (1991)
Original Release Date: August 7, 1958
Recorded at Five Spot Cafe, New York City 1958


After he was denied club work in New York for years because a marijuana conviction kept him from holding a "cabaret card," Thelonious Monk's late-'50s stays at the Five Spot provided him with a forum through which he could reach an audience and also acted as an intense musical laboratory. Misterioso and its companion disc, Thelonious in Action, were Monk's first professionally recorded live dates, and they feature the excellent 1958 quartet with tenorist Johnny Griffin stretching out on Monk tunes like "In Walked Bud" and "Evidence." Monk could not only find new dissonances, but he could also find new meanings for dissonance, imbuing his sometimes elliptical, even minimalist, compositions with a joyous playfulness. Griffin adds a strong blues flavor and some unlikely quotations that leaven his intense focus. If this nugget tickles the ear enough to drive you toward the completist's deep end, check out Monk's Complete Riverside Recordings mega-box. By Stuart Broomer.

I won't review this CD as a whole since many others have already. But in all these reviews I note scant mention of Johnny Griffin. In this live session from that now defunct little hole-in-the-wall, the Five Spot, Grif shows why he is considered the 'fastest tenor alive.' He's also the most passionate. His solos on this session are consistently amazing in their dexterity, imagination, and sheer emotional charge. He often moans ecstatically as he blows flourish after flourish of blue fire, yet never takes himself too seriously. He truly GETS Thelonious: the wry twinkle of Monkish humor. The second cut, 'Blues Five Spot,' is one of the greatest tenor solos of all time (See my Listmania, "Great Tenor Sax Solos.") Astonishing speed and melodic invention with the trio are followed by an un-accompanied cadenza of clean blues logic, topped off by the theme from Popeye the Sailor Man. Sonny Rollins was more magisterial and conscious of his greatness when he played with Monk; Trane was more esoteric and, well, heavy; but no one played Monk with more understanding than Johnny Griffin: they were friends for life. Grif knew the secret of Monk. The Master wasn't avant garde and he wasn't heavy: he was funky, blue, and full of laughter. Despite the primitive quality of the recording, and the idiots at the bar who keep dropping their glasses, this sizzling July evening in 1958, in the hippest of New York bars, at the heart of a by-gone era, is captured for all time here in one of the GREAT live jazz recordings. By A. K. L.

Recorded live at the Five Spot Cafe, New York, New York on July 9 and August 7, 1958. Originally released on Riverside (1190). Includes liner notes by Orrin Keepnews. Digitally remastered by Joe Tarantino (1988, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California). By 1958, Thelonious Monk was a fixture on the New York club scene, thanks to his legendary 1957 engagement at the Five Spot. Piano, tenor, bass and drums became Monk's favored mode of instrumentation throughout the '60s, when he surfed the crest of his popularity as a major artist (cover of Time magazine), on a major label (Columbia), with some underrated bands. Recorded live at the Five Spot, the quartet on THELONIOUS IN ACTION (and MISTERIOSO) ranks with his greatest working aggregations, allowing Monk to fully explore the orchestral dimensions of jazz within a small band context. The hard-swinging tenor giant Johnny Griffin was a key contributor. Like his soulmate Dexter Gordon, Griffin managed to traverse the ...
Thelonious Monk- (Piano)
Johnny Griffin- (Tenor Saxophone)
Ahmed Abdul-Malik- (Double Bass)
Roy Haynes- (Drums)
01. Nutty (Thelonious Monk) 5:25
02. Blues Five Spot (Thelonious Monk) 8:17
03. Let's Cool One (Thelonious Monk) 9:16
04. In Walked Bud (Thelonious Monk) 11:23
05. Just a Gigolo (Julius Brammer/Irving Caesar/Leonello Casucci) 2:09
06. Misterioso (Thelonious Monk) 10:54
07. 'Round Midnight (Thelonious Monk/Cootie Williams/Bernie Hanighen) 6:15

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