Monk's prime Prestige sides given a dusting-down...
Charles De Ledesma 2007
Thelonious Monk, who died in 1982, is regarded as one of the founding fathers of bebop along with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Monk though is not as celebrated as the other two, probably due to a less extravagant soloing style. However, this beret-wearing, blues-inspired player not only in later years laid the rhythmic roots for funk, but was formidable enough to be known in the 1940s, as the ‘High Priest of Bebop'.
The ten cuts on this CD, taken from three Prestige Records’ sessions in 1952 and 1954, include many of Monk’s best-known tunes including ‘'Blue Monk'’, ‘'Sweet and Lovely'’ and ‘Monk’s Dream’.. These cuts aptly demonstrate his stylistic traits, full of dissonant harmonies and curved, melodic twists. But, before all his technical innovation, lies Monk's highly personable, unorthodox approach to the piano, combining a driving percussive force with whimsical inflections and a wonderful sense of space and timing.
All the tunes here find Monk in tight trio mode: ‘'Blue Monk'’ and ‘'ust A Gigolo'’, for example, have Percy heath on bass and Art Blakey on drums whereas for the slighty earlier cuts, ‘'Bemsha Swing'’ and ‘'Trinkle Tinkle'’ there is Gary Mapp on bass and Max Roach on drums. But the various personnel make little difference to the overall effect – Monk throughout offers a sumptious flow of melody, punctuation, nuance and charm.
The best way to listen to this CD is to lie down and enter the rich lyrical landscape. Then, let the warmth, wit and energy flow over you. You could be at Minton’s in Harlem watching Monk himself.