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Jazz - Released January 1, 2014 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

The two-disc Thelonious Monk anthology, 2014's 'Round Midnight: The Complete Blue Note Singles (1947-1952)), compiles all of the influential jazz pianist’s original 78 rpm singles released on the storied Blue Note label. These are Monk's first recordings under his own name, leading a group (not his debut recordings as a sideman with Coleman Hawkins). All of these recordings were later collected on various albums including Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1., and other anthologies. Here, they are presented in chronological order and with alternate takes. Recorded in six separate sessions beginning in October of 1947 and ending in May of 1952, these sides showcase many of the songs Monk composed, and which would quickly become part of the jazz canon. Included are "Evidence," "Mysterioso," "Well, You Needn't," and others. While the focal point of these albums is Monk's innovative use of dissonance and unexpected, angular melodicism, the recordings also benefit from a veritable who's-who of modern jazz of the period. Backing Monk here, variously, are such luminaries as drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, trumpeters Kenny Dorham and Idrees Sulieman, saxophonists Lou Donaldson and Lucky Thompson, and many more. While these recordings are widely available, it's both historically enlightening and aesthetically pleasing to have them collected so thoughtfully here. ~ Matt Collar

Jazz - Released October 10, 2007 | BDMUSIC


Jazz - Released January 1, 1994 | Blue Note Records

This magnificent limited-edition set launched the Mosaic label in real style. Included are all of Thelonious Monk's Blue Note recordings, six sessions as a leader from 1947-52 complete with alternate takes plus two titles cut with tenor-saxophonist Sonny Rollins in 1957. Since these were Monk's first opportunities to lead his own recording dates, this set includes the original versions of such classics as "Ruby, My Dear," "Well You Needn't," "Off Minor," "In Walked Bud," "Evidence," "Criss Cross" and "Straight No Chaser" along with Monk's first chance to record "'Round Midnight" and "Epistrophy." The sidemen include such notables as trumpeters Kenny Dorham and Idrees Sulieman, drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, altoist Lou Donaldson and tenor-saxophonist Lucky Thompson, but it is the unique pianist/composer who is the main star. Many of these recordings (generally the master takes) has been reissued in other forms by Blue Note. ~ Scott Yanow

Jazz - Released August 12, 1963 | Columbia - Legacy

Criss-Cross -- Thelonious Monk's second album for Columbia Records -- features some of the finest work that Monk ever did in the studio with his '60s trio and quartet. Whether revisiting pop standards or reinventing Monk's own classic compositions, Monk and Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Ore (bass), and Frankie Dunlop (drums) exchange powerful musical ideas, as well as provide potent solos throughout the disc. Fittingly, "Hackensack" -- a frenetic original composition -- opens the disc by demonstrating the bandleader's strength in a quartet environment. The solid rhythmic support of the trio unfetters Monk into unleashing endless cascades of percussive inflections and intoxicating chord progressions. The title cut also reflects the ability of the four musicians to maintain melodic intricacies that are at times so exigent it seems cruel that Monk would have expected a musician of any caliber to pull them off. "Tea for Two" showcases Monk's appreciation for the great stride or "walking" piano style of James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith. The arrangement here is lighter, and features a trio (minus Rouse) to accent rather than banter with Monk's splashes of magnificence throughout. Likewise, Monk's solo on "Don't Blame Me" is excellent. The extended runs up and down the keyboard can't help but reiterate the tremendous debt of gratitude owed to the original stride pianists of the early 20th century. The 1993 compact disc pressing of Criss-Cross sounds great and adds a version of "Pannonica" that was previously unissued at the time. Unfortunately, however, the liner notes originally used on the album jacket -- penned by "Pannonica"'s namesake, Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter -- were replaced by those of a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. This is prime Monk for any degree of listener. ~ Lindsay Planer

Jazz - Released April 15, 2019 | RevOla


Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Concord Records

Jazz - Released January 1, 1986 | Riverside

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The studio and live recording sessions that Thelonious Monk cut during his six-year stay at the Riverside label are compiled over the 15 discs in the Complete Riverside Recordings. This middle era -- between his early sides for Prestige and the final ones for Columbia -- is generally considered Monk's most ingenious and creative period. The sessions are presented in chronological order, accurately charting the progression and diversions of one of the most genuinely enigmatic figures in popular music. The Complete Riverside Recordings explores Monk's genius with a certain degree of real-time analysis that simply listening to each of the individual albums from this era lacks. This is due in part to the 14 additional performances exclusive to this collection. However, a more satisfying level of assessing Monk's indelible marks of extemporaneous perfection can be heard within his prankster-like sense of timing or innate penchant for sophisticated arrangements. Among the sessions captured on this exhaustive set are the Duke Ellington sides and the Sonny Rollins era (which yielded the genre-defining Brilliant Corners), as well as meetings with Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, and Gerry Mulligan. Additionally, the entire Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall performance is presented just as it went down -- with solo and quartet sets intact. Accompanying the discs is a 28-page full-size (12"x12") booklet that is indispensable in dispelling myths and making sense of the convoluted and seemingly random order in which many of these recordings have been previously issued. It also contains a complete sessionography annotated by Monk's producer during this era, Orrin Keepnews. This is a convenient, albeit pricey way to obtain all of this remarkable music. ~ Lindsay Planer

Jazz - Released August 19, 2003 | Columbia - Legacy

Although often unrightfully maligned by self-proclaimed "purists," Thelonious Monk did some brilliant work during his early- to mid-'60s stint for Columbia Records. It's Monk's Time (1964) contains some of the best -- if not arguably the best -- studio sides that the pianist cut during his final years as a recording musician. The album's title turned out to be somewhat prophetic, as Time magazine featured Monk as the cover subject for its February 28, 1964, edition. Interestingly, he was to have been profiled by the periodical the previous November; however, the assassination of then-President John F. Kennedy took obvious precedence. It had been almost a full year since his previous studio release, Criss-Cross (1963), and there had been a significant alteration in the rhythm section, which now incorporated the respective talents of both Butch Warren (bass) and Ben Riley (drums) as well as longtime cohort Charlie Rouse (tenor sax). From four sessions in early 1964, It's Monk's Time gathers four quartet and two solo sides, presenting the pinnacle of what these musicians offered stylistically as well as from the standpoint of presentation. There is sense of mischievous playfulness in Monk's nimble keyboard work, especially notable on the beautifully off-kilter unaccompanied opening to "Lulu's Back in Town," and the same practically impish quality also drives the solo performance on "Nice Work if You Can Get It." Both pop standards are prime examples of the bop pioneer's inimitable approach to arranging, and also provide an uncanny insight to his influences. Immediately evident are the styles of stride legends from the well-known Willie "The Lion" Smith and James P. Johnson to the slightly more obscure and decidedly frenetic playing of Cliff Jackson, as well as the ragtime approach of Walter L. Rose. The results are bound together in Monk's arithmetically advanced delivery and harmonic composition. The combo -- especially Rouse -- effectively supports and punctuates the tricky timing of "Stuffy Turkey" and the more aggressive bop of "Brake's Sake." The latter title also unleashes some tasty interaction between Monk and Rouse, sonically exemplifying their practically single-minded synergy. The concluding cut, "Shuffle Boil," is one of the lost gems of the artist's later work. It sports an effortless swing over a sophisticated and challenging melodic structure. Bassist Warren steps up to the plate, providing a supple and pulsating bed for both Monk and Rouse as they trade solos. [In 2003, Legacy issued an expanded edition of It's Monk's Time with a trio of bonus tracks, two of which were previously unavailable.] ~ Lindsay Planer

Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Concord Records


Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | Columbia - Legacy


Vocal Jazz - Released February 22, 2019 | Reborn recordings


Jazz - Released July 9, 2012 | Efor, S.L


Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Concord Records


Jazz - Released September 20, 2016 | Trunk Records


Jazz - Released January 31, 2014 | Amor's Touch


Jazz - Released August 27, 2001 | Columbia - Legacy


Jazz - Released November 29, 2013 | Sweet Memories