Sunday, January 25, 2015


Thelonious Monk let the clouds roll away with the easy alchemical grooves of these lazy and cool elaborations.  Since getting his club card back, Monk had signed with Colombia Records and released a series of albums with Charlie Rouse and a revolving cast of rhythm men, most notably 'Monk's Dream' 'Criss-Cross' , and 'It's Monk's Time'.  During the time that the tracks for 'Monk.' were recorded, he had enjoyed a seven month residency at the Five Spot in Manhattan's Lower East Side and became only the third jazz musician to appear on the cover of Time Magazine.  

Teo Macero produced the sessions at Columbia Studios in New York City that included the rhythm section of bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley;  with Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone;  and Thelonious Monk on piano.   "Pannonica" is a tribute to jazz patron Kathleen Annie Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter; while "Teo" is a tribute to Macero.

Monk would consider:  "I'm just thinking about the music.  You think about everything else automatically. I think about what anyone else does ... I think very highly of the public. I think they're capable of knowing if something sounds all right. I figure that if it sounds all right to me, it sounds all right to them ... I don't know what's happening on the moon, but I know what's happening in New York. I like New York City. I haven't been anywhere that tops it yet ... I have to listen to New York; I live there. I wasn't born there, but I've been living there all my life. (Monk was born in Rocky Mount, N.C.) You can't shut the sound out too easily; you always hear some kind of noise going on. I guess all sort of things have an effect on what you're writing. But I was raised in New York, and it's home to me. That's what I dig about it. You want to know what sound I put into my music - well, you have to go to New York and listen for yourself. I can't describe them. How do you expect me to describe to you right here how New York sounds? How does London sound? Can you tell me how London sounds - huh? ... I really don't want to do anything else other than what I'm doing. I like playing music. Everything's all right. I don't look like I'm worrying about anything, do I? I don't talk much because you can't tell everybody what you're thinking. Sometimes you don't know what you're thinking yourself ... If you think my playing is more simple, maybe that's because you can dig it better (laughs).  It takes that long for somebody to hear it, I guess. I mean for them to understand it or for you to get to them for them to hear it, because you might be changing and then stop playing, and they'd never get a chance to hear it.   But I never be noticing these things. I just be trying to play."



Liner notes by Bill Evans:

"Thelonious Monk is an example of an exceptionally uncorrupted creative talent. He has accepted the challenges that one must accept to forge a music utilizing the jazz process. Because he lacks, perhaps fortunately, exposure to the Western classical music tradition or, for that matter, comprehensive exposure to any music other than jazz and American popular music, his reflections of formal superficialities and their replacement with fundamental structure has resulted in a unique and astoundingly pure music.

Make no mistake. This man knows exactly what he is doing in a theoretical way - organized, more than likely, in a personal terminology, but strongly organized nevertheless. We can be further grateful to him for combining aptitude, insight, drive, compassion, fantasy, and whatever else makes the "total" artist, and we should also be grateful for such direct speech in an age of insurmountable conformist pressures.

In a recent 'Down Beat' Blindfold Test, I was played a Thelonious Monk track. I might repeat here part of my reaction: Monk approaches the piano and, I should add right now, music as well, from an "angle" that, although unprecedented, is just the right "angle" for him. Perhaps this is the major reason for my feeling the same respect and admiration for his work that I do for Erroll Garner's, though they might seem poles apart to the casual listener. Each seems to me as great as any man can be great if he works true to his talents, neither over nor underestimating them and, most important, functions within his limitations.

You will experience an absolutely inimitable performance when you listen to this recording and bless the beauty of the fact that there just ain't no other like it. To exemplify this is a noble accomplishment and testimony to an exceptional, worthwhile life."

full album:

"Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)" (George and Ira Gershwin, Gus Kahn) (4:35)
"April In Paris"  (E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, Vernon Duke) (7:52)
"Children's Song (That Old Man)" (traditional)  (4:55)
"I Love You (Sweetheart Of All My Dreams)" (Irving Berlin)  (6:45)
"Just You, Just Me"  (Jesse Greer, Raymond Klages)  (8:42)
"Pannonica" (Thelonious Monk) (7:21)
"Teo"  (Thelonious Monk)  (5:24)

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