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Jazz - Released January 20, 1900 | CoolNote

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1955 | Riverside

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Jazz - Released July 21, 1955 | Original Jazz Classics

Thelonious Monk (piano/arranger) began his illustrious relationship with Riverside Records on the pair of July 21 and 27, 1955, dates needed to complete the eight sides for Plays Duke Ellington (1955). Monk commands a trio that also presents the talents of Oscar Pettiford (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums) on all the tracks sans "Solitude," which appropriately enough features an unaccompanied piano. The delicacy and inherently intricate melodies that Duke Ellington is best known for are perfectly matched to Monk's angular and progressive interpretations. The combo are comfortable behind the pianist who remains somewhat subdued, if not arguably tentative, during the opening of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," although by his solo, Monk eases into some nice give and take with a playful Pettiford, whose steady bounce undeniably congeals the unit's sound. Monk takes the refined grace of "Sophisticated Lady" into a virtually unsurpassed strata as his seemingly disjointed notes organically coalesce into a simply stunning, yet stark introduction, with Clarke's understated backbeat allowing room for Monk to embellish and thoroughly adorn. The dark optimism of "Black and Tan Fantasy" stands out as another perfect combination of music and musician. "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" is a fun little romp with Monk taking some tricky and rhythmically unanticipated side trips throughout his nimble and rollicking leads. "Caravan" is a gem as Clarke's sinuous trapwork becomes a perfect foil for Pettiford's buoyant basslines. It also reels in Monk's animated keyboard antics. Plays Duke Ellington is a recommended title for all dimension of jazz enthusiast. However, Monk and Ellington aficionados may rate it slightly higher. ~ Lindsay Planer
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Jazz - Released August 13, 1957 | Vintage Music

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Contemporary Jazz - Released January 1, 1958 | Impressions

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1961 | Rye

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1961 | Chard

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Jazz - Released August 12, 1963 | Columbia - Legacy

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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
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Jazz - Released April 1, 1964 | Legacy - Columbia

This is one of pianist-composer Thelonious Monk's greatest recordings and represents a high point in his career. Performing at Philharmonic Hall in New York, Monk is heard taking an unaccompanied solo on "Darkness on the Delta" and jamming with his quartet (which had Charlie Rouse on tenor, bassist Butch Warren, and drummer Frank Dunlop) on fine versions of "Played Twice" and a previously unreleased rendition of "Misterioso." However, this two-CD set has its most memorable moments during the six full-length performances by a ten-piece group. Monk's quartet was joined by cornetist Thad Jones, trumpeter Nick Travis, Steve Lacy on soprano, altoist Phil Woods, baritonist Gene Allen, and trombonist Eddie Bert. Jones and Woods have plenty of solos and, although Lacy surprisingly does not have any individual spots, his soprano is a major part of some of the ensembles. Most remarkable is "Four in One," which after one of Monk's happiest (and very rhythmic) solos features the orchestra playing a Hal Overton transcription of a complex and rather exuberant Monk solo taken from his original record. This two-CD set is a gem and can be considered essential for all jazz collections. ~ Scott Yanow
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released March 7, 1966 | ISMCDigital

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Jazz - Released March 7, 1966 | ISMCDigital

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Jazz - Released March 7, 1966 | ISMCDigital

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Jazz - Released April 15, 1968 | Columbia

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Jazz - Released October 1, 1979 | Columbia - Legacy

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Thelonious Monk fans in particular are advised to search for this valuable two-LP set for it contains a variety of unissued material from the pianist/composer's six-year period with Columbia. Monk is heard on three piano solos, with his regular working quartet, heading a trio on "Easy Street" and at his renowned Lincoln Center concert with a nonet on "Light Blue" and "Bye Ya." The music on this two-fer is at the same consistent high level as his Columbia recordings of the 1960s and contains some surprising moments. ~ Scott Yanow

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
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Riverside Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1991 | Blue Note Records

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1991 | Bella Musica Edition

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1993 | Blue Note Records