Friday, August 14, 2009

Monk; The Genius of Modern Music - Part III

4 Prestige Years – Quintet and more

Thelonious Monk’s years as a Prestige artist (1952-1954) were tough times for the legendary composer/pianist. Unable to work in New York clubs due to the unjust loss of his cabaret card, and misunderstood when not ignored by the listeners as well as many musicians, Monk’s profile’s was sustained primarily by his appearances as both leader and sideman on a series of Prestige sessions released in the then-new LP format. The Monk/Sonny Rollins album, which samples three of those sessions, appeared as critics and fans were beginning to catch up Monk’s singular genius and remains one of the best introductions to his iconoclastic brilliance. Rudy Van Gelder, the recording engineer remembers how musicians wanted to sound, and their reactions to the playbacks. “Today, I feel strongly that I’m their messenger,” says Gelder in his notes for the reissue of these classic Prestige dates. This is a potpourri of Monk, with Rollins in on two of the recording dates. The 1953 session with Julius Watkins on French horn gives us “Friday the 13th,” an elongated outing on one of those Monkian harmonic sequences that is at once minimal and liberating. “Work” and “Nutty” were to become two of Monk’s most intriguing pieces. These trio versions with the steady Percy Heath as the pivot, reveal once again the rapport enjoyed by Monk and Art Blakey. “The way you look tonight” and “I want to be happy” are companion tracks to the ballad performance of “More than you know”. These renditions have a relaxed, swinging informality that lets you think you are eavesdropping at a session in Monk’s West 63rd Street living room in 1954 on a night Sonny dropped in to blow.
Beware that these sessions have been reissued under different titles, like Work. And if you want to have a close examination of Monk’s music in Prestige days you must listen to a Miles Davis album called “Miles Davis and the modern jazz giants.” There are four tunes there (with alternative takes, 6) with Monk on the piano (one of them in another Miles’s LP, Bags’ Groove). Naturally Davis and Monk’s relation in these sessions was too stormy, so their collaboration didn’t last much. All prestige recordings of Monk are available in a box set. The only thing makes it worthy, is that there are four 1944 recordings from a Coleman Hawkins session. The material originally came out on the small Joe Davis label, but these performances are historically important because they marked the first time Monk was recorded as a sideman, and the first time that Prestige founder Bob Weinstock was exposed to Monk.

Thelonious Monk Quintet
Julius Watkins (frh) Sonny Rollins (ts) Thelonious Monk (p) Percy Heath (b) Willie Jones (d)
NYC, November 13, 1953
Let's Call This / Think Of One /Think Of One /Friday The Thirteenth
Thelonious Monk - Monk (Prestige PRLP 7053; Fantasy OJC 016, OJCCD 016-2)
Thelonious Monk And Sonny Rollins (Prestige PRLP 7075; Fantasy OJC 059, OJCCD 059-2)
Thelonious Monk/Sonny Rollins - Work (Prestige PRLP 7169)

Thelonious Monk Quintet
Ray Copeland (tp) Frank Foster (ts) Thelonious Monk (p) Curly Russell (b) Art Blakey (d)
Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, May 11, 1954
Wee See /Smoke Gets In Your Eyes /Locomotive / Hackensack
Thelonious Monk - Monk (Prestige PRLP 7053; Fantasy OJC 016, OJCCD 016-2)
Thelonious Monk - Blue Monk, Vol. 2 (Prestige PR 7848)

Thelonious Monk - Sonny Rollins Quartet
Sonny Rollins (ts) Thelonious Monk (p) Tommy Potter (b) Art Taylor (d)
Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, October 25, 1954
I Want To Be Happy /The Way You Look Tonight / More Than You Know
Thelonious Monk And Sonny Rollins (Prestige PRLP 7075; Fantasy OJC 059, OJCCD 059-2)
Thelonious Monk/Sonny Rollins - Work (Prestige PRLP 7169)

Miles Davis Quintet
Miles Davis (tp) Milt Jackson (vib) Thelonious Monk (p) Percy Heath (b) Kenny Clarke (d)
Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, December 24, 1954
Bags' Groove / Bags' Groove (alt. take) /Bemsha Swing /Swing Spring /The Man I Love /The Man I Love (alt. take)
Miles Davis - Bags' Groove (Prestige PRLP 7109; Fantasy OJC 245, OJCCD 245-2)
Miles Davis And The Modern Jazz Giants (Prestige PRLP 16-3)

1 comment:

  1. I see that you are using my painting of Thelonious Monk to embellish your site...and thats fine, however I prefer if you give reference to my name as the artist. Better yet, give a link back to my website My painting of the Monk is the one with the yellow background.Thankyou, Merryl Jaye