Friday, August 21, 2009

Monk; The Genius of Modern Music - Part IV

Part IV - Riverside Years: Standards

Riverside records bought Thelonious Monk’s contract from Prestige, only for $100. They thought that his music was too difficult to sell in stores so they came with a new idea: playing standards of jazz instead of his own compositions. Monk did accept the proposition, but changed the game in his direction. The result was: Thelonious Monk plays the music of Duke Ellington.

The idea of paying tribute by one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers, in his hay days, to another fellow musician, in his first contract filler with Riverside is bizarre enough and listening to the record will increase that feeling much more. Monk plays Ellington tunes in such a modest way, his playing is full of respect and one can find less of that famous Monkian passages in his homage to great Ellington.

This unassuming approach reminds me of another meeting-with-Ellington session, the one with John Coltrane that tenor giant at the pick of his free jazz days choose a son-father like and more harmonic relation with the master Ellington and swung easy on great tunes like "In a sentimental mood".

Thelonious Monk plays the music of Duke Ellington was cut in July 1955 with Oscar Pettiford on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums.

The concept of playing standards continued with The unique Thelonious Monk (recorded March,1956) and this times tunes were picked from the American popular music songbook and Clark gave his place to Monk ‘s long time collaborator, Art Blakey.

My favorite cut from this session is “Memories of You” (a solo); another example of giving a new meaning to popular tunes of the day and a make them so rich with new rhythmic and harmonic approaches. “The sophisticated performance is understated, yet remains loose and limber and perfectly in keeping with the album's leitmotif of exploring Monk's skills as an arranger and musician.” says Lindsay Planer about the album.
The many listeners who or quite familiar or not quite familiar with Monk’s music will most probably find these two LP, nothing less than Thelonious in top form, at his most lyrical, relaxed, and inventive best.


Thelonious Monk Trio
Thelonious Monk (p) Oscar Pettiford (b -1/6,8) Kenny Clarke (d -1/6,8)
Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, July 21 & 27, 1955

1. It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing
2. Sophisticated Lady
3. I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good
4. Black And Tan Fantasy
5. Mood Indigo
6. I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
7. Solitude
8. Caravan

Thelonious Monk Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington

Thelonious Monk Trio
Thelonious Monk (p) Oscar Pettiford (b -1,3,4) Art Blakey (d -1,3,4)
Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, March 17, 1956

1. Liza
2. Memories Of You
3. You Are Too Beautiful
4. Just You, Just Me

The Unique Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk Trio
same personnel
Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, April 3, 1956

1. Honeysuckle Rose
2. Darn That Dream
3. Tea For Two

The Unique Thelonious Monk

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