Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thelenius MONK - The Complete London Collection 1971

Thelonious MONK - The Complete London Collection 1971

It took years for Thelonious Monk to find an audience beyond a devoted circle of the most creative musicians, but today no jazz composer ranks higher than Monk. His angular, dissonant, and percussive piano style, once dismissed as merely eccentric, is recognized as a brilliant transformation of earlier stride techniques and a fountain of rhythmic and harmonic creativity.
Even though these cd's are not amongst Monk's best known, they are simply indispensable. I would even state that they are Monk's best work, together with his first recordings, on Blue Note.
These three cd's were recorded in London during a 1971 European tour and consist of solos and trio work with Al McKibbon and Art Blakey, both of whom had recorded with Monk on Blue Note. As far as I am aware of, they are Monk's last studio recordings.

Folkloric tales about these recordings abound. On some takes, for instance, you can hear a strange ticking sound; after Monk's wife cut his fingernails, the noise disappeared. But that is hardly essential. The important thing is the playing, which is simply unbelievable. It's difficult to single out any piece, but try "Chordially", which is just the name the producers gave to a recording of Monk warming up. Many pianists would gladly play the way Monk warms up...

In my opinion, this is not only some of Monk's best work, it is also a perfect introduction to his music. So if you don't know this gem, you know what you have to do...
These are very special, little known Monk recordings. I have been listening to them for over 25 years, and I save them for special times. Every single person to whom I've played them--novice or enthusiast--has been blown away by how beautiful they are.

They are indeed Monk's last recorded sessions, done while touring in England, when he was supposedly being 'left behind' by the newer (fusion) jazz back in the States. Monk had just turned 54 when he recorded this 6-hour session. Of course, we only know now that this was to be Monk's last session, but he plays with an authority, thoughtfulness, and wit astonishing even for him. He was being nudged out and he knew it. (Capitol had even cut back his royalties!) He was on the 'outside' again, and he's making a statement here.

Monk chose songs from throughout his long career and even makes up a few on the spot. His playing is both exceptional and accessible. To me, the solo material is Monk's best on record. In the trio recordings, the drummer (Blakey, who knew Monk well) is right there with him, and Monk's clearly enjoying it. The bassist (McKibbon) gets lost sometimes, and you can hear it. But it doesn't matter: Monk is interpreting his works here with a finality and grace that transports you to another 'sphere.'
Thelonious Monk- (Piano)
Al McKibbon- (Bajo)
Art Blakey- (Bateria)
CD 1
1. Trinkle, Tinkle [Take 3] (Monk) 7:26
2. Crepuscule With Nellie [Take 2] (Monk) 2:25
3. Darn That Dream (Delange, Van Heusen) 5:54
4. Little Rootie Tootie (Monk) 4:10
5. Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland (Beth Slater Whitson, Leo Friedman) 3:20
6. Nice Work If You Can Get It (George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin) 5:19
7. My Melancholy Baby (Ernie Burnett, George Norton) 5:11
8. Jackie-Ing (Monk) 3:32
9. Lover Man (Jimmy Davis, Jimmy Sherman, Roger “Ram” Ramirez) 7:14
10. Blue Sphere (Monk) 2:23

CD 2
1. Evidence [Take 2] (Monk) 5:26
2. Misterioso (Monk) 6:26
3. Crepuscule With Nellie [Take 4] (Monk) 2:23
4. I Mean You (Hawkins, Monk) 7:45
5. Criss-Cross (Monk) 3:44
6. Ruby, My Dear (Monk) 6:08
7. Nutty [Take 2] (Monk) 4:45
8. Hackensack (Monk) 7:55

CD 3
1. Trinkle, Tinkle [Take 2] (Monk) 6:06
2. The Man I Love (Gershwin, Gershwin) 5:20
3. Something In Blue (Monk) 6:43
4. Introspection [Take 1] (Monk) 1:17
5. Trinkle, Tinkle [Take 1] (Monk) 5:50
6. Crepuscule With Nellie [Take 3] (Monk) 2:23
7. Nutty [Take 1] (Monk) 4:20
8. Introspection [Take 3] (Monk) 3:07
9. Hackensack [Take 1] (Monk) 9:06
10. Evidence [Take 1] (Monk) 7:16
11. Chordially [Improvisation] (Monk) 9:40
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