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Jazz - Released May 19, 2017 | Sam Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS - Jazzwise Five-star review
Any occasion for unreleased Thelonious Monk recordings is one for celebration. The discovery of his excellent soundtrack sessions for Roger Vadim's film Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960, an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' 18th century novel, happened by accident. Producers Zev Feldman, François Le Xuan, and Frederic Thomas found these tapes while searching French saxophonist Barney Wilen's manager's archives in search of unreleased material. What they found were the original soundtrack and full sessions cut in New York during a single day in 1959 -- the same fertile year that yielded the Monk's At Town Hall; 5 by Monk by 5, and Thelonious Alone in San Francisco. Like these recordings, this soundtrack showcases Monk at the very top of his game. For various reasons including health issues and legal troubles, Monk had no time to travel or compose original music for the film. For this session he brought along tunes from his repertoire -- as was his wont throughout his career -- and reinvented them for the film with his working quartet of saxophonist Charlie Rouse, drummer Art Taylor, and bassist Sam Jones, with the addition of Wilen (who should be far better known to American jazz fans). The album is one of the only occasions in the pianist's discography where he employed two tenor players: the other was Thelonious Monk at the Blackhawk, with Harold Land alongside Rouse. The first of these two discs includes the actual soundtrack music as used in sequence, but never released. "Rhythm-a-Ning" is followed by "Crepuscule with Nellie" (his wife was in the studio), "Six in One," and "Well You Needn't," all of which are sprightly and at times even hot. There are two solo takes of "Pannonica" also used along with a quintet version. It is notable to note that Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, Monk's friend and patron, was also present. "Ba-Lue-Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are" is followed by a brief "Light Blue" and the short gospel hymn "By and By," which makes its first-ever appearance here. Disc two contains alternate takes, a pair of masters for a 45 rpm single, an edited version of "Well You Needn't," and the jewel: a 14-minute in-process recording of "Light Blue" complete with studio dialogue. It's a cousin to the making of "'Round Midnight" with Gerry Mulligan that showed up in the '80s: A one-of-a-kind revelatory document. This music was not only professionally recorded, but preserved with archival standards, making for an excellent fidelity reproduction. This handsome package contains a plethora of liner essays including one by Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. There are loads of photos in black-and white and color; all are intimate, and as revelatory as the music. This was made available during the centennial anniversary of Monk's birth; and given its quality, it makes for one of the most important jazz discoveries in recent years. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Riverside

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Le top 6 JAZZ NEWS - The Qobuz Standard
With the robust ambience of Fugazi Hall in San Francisco at his disposal, Thelonious Monk recorded ten unaccompanied tracks over two days to create a long-awaited sequel to his immensely endearing Thelonious Himself long-player. As had become somewhat customary for Monk, he brought with him a healthy sampling from his voluminous back catalog, cover tunes, as well as a few new compositions. What is most immediately striking about these recordings is the rich and accurate sound stage at Fugazi Hall. The overtones are rich and thoughtful in their ability to animate Monk's recreations of some of his most endearing works, such as the pair that opens this set. "Blue Monk" still retains the proud stride and walking blues heritage of previous renderings. Adding a bit of off-tempo improvisation, Monk propels and emphasizes the rhythmic swing even harder. He is obviously also enjoying what he is hearing. The audible maturity guiding Monk through the familiar, albeit offbeat, chord progressions of "Ruby, My Dear" is striking. His nimble reflexes and split-second timing render this version superior. Again, the sound of the hall offers even more to enjoy from this performance. It is unfortunate that the playful solitude of "Round Lights" was never revisited. This freeform composition is framed within a blues structure, yet reveals all of the slightly askew freedom of a Monk original. The recreation of an old 1920s hit, "There's Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie," is another of the highlights from Thelonious Alone in San Francisco that was never recorded again by Monk. The noir qualities are immeasurably enhanced by Monk's oblique phrasings as well as the eerie resonance of the Fugazi. This is an absolute must-own recording -- Monk enthusiast or not. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 29, 2017 | Legacy Recordings

Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Indispensable JAZZ NEWS
Thelonious Monk was 34 years old when he crossed the Atlantic for the first time. In that year of 1954, the American pianist, already considered a great trend-setter, was the guest of the Jazz Festival that takes place at the Salle Pleyel where he performed with drummer Jean-Louis Viale and bass player Jean-Marie Ingrand. This album released in 2017, Monk’s centennial year, offers the recording of five titles from this performance, but its true value lies elsewhere: Thelonious Monk solo on piano, that producer André Francis was wise enough to record. Even wiser since the musician had never been recorded solo before. And it’s like fireworks! Listening to such music blending chaos and passion, humor and intelligence is like watching a tightrope walker on the edge but of course never falling. And let’s not forget the genius of the compositions! All of Monk's art is already there, in this Parisian walk of 1954 that still sounds as modern as it did many decades ago… © MZ/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released July 1, 2014 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Jazz - Released September 23, 2002 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Monk's Dream is the Columbia Records debut release featuring the Thelonious Monk Quartet: Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Ore (bass), and Frankie Dunlop (drums). Jazz scholars and enthusiasts alike also heralded this combo as the best Monk had been involved with for several years. Although he would perform and record supported by various other musicians, the tight -- almost telepathic -- dimensions that these four shared has rarely been equalled in any genre. By the early '60s, bop had become considered passé by artists as well as fans looking for the next musical trend. This is coupled with the fact that discerning Monk fans would have undoubtedly recognized many of these titles from several live recordings issued at the end of his tenure on Riverside. Not to belabor the point, however, but precious few musicians understood the layer upon layer of complexities and challenges that Monk's music created. On tracks such as "Five Spot Blues" and "Bolivar Blues," Rouse and Dunlop demonstrate their uncanny abilities by squeezing in well-placed instrumental fills, while never getting hit by the unpredictable rhythmic frisbees being tossed about by Monk. Augmenting the six quartet recordings are two solo sides: "Just a Gigolo" and "Body and Soul." Most notable about Monk's solo work is how much he retained the same extreme level of intuition throughout the nearly two decades that separate these recordings from his initial renderings in the late '40s. Monk's Dream is recommended, with something for every degree of Monk enthusiast. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 3, 2003 | CM BLUE NOTE (A92)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Jazz - Released March 3, 2003 | Blue Note Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Original Jazz Classics

Distinctions Le top 6 JAZZ NEWS
With the robust ambience of Fugazi Hall in San Francisco at his disposal, Thelonious Monk recorded ten unaccompanied tracks over two days to create a long-awaited sequel to his immensely endearing Thelonious Himself long-player. As had become somewhat customary for Monk, he brought with him a healthy sampling from his voluminous back catalog, cover tunes, as well as a few new compositions. What is most immediately striking about these recordings is the rich and accurate sound stage at Fugazi Hall. The overtones are rich and thoughtful in their ability to animate Monk's recreations of some of his most endearing works, such as the pair that opens this set. "Blue Monk" still retains the proud stride and walking blues heritage of previous renderings. Adding a bit of off-tempo improvisation, Monk propels and emphasizes the rhythmic swing even harder. He is obviously also enjoying what he is hearing. The audible maturity guiding Monk through the familiar, albeit offbeat, chord progressions of "Ruby, My Dear" is striking. His nimble reflexes and split-second timing render this version superior. Again, the sound of the hall offers even more to enjoy from this performance. It is unfortunate that the playful solitude of "Round Lights" was never revisited. This freeform composition is framed within a blues structure, yet reveals all of the slightly askew freedom of a Monk original. The recreation of an old 1920s hit, "There's Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie," is another of the highlights from Thelonious Alone in San Francisco that was never recorded again by Monk. The noir qualities are immeasurably enhanced by Monk's oblique phrasings as well as the eerie resonance of the Fugazi. This is an absolute must-own recording -- Monk enthusiast or not. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 23, 2002 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Unusual Suspects
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Jazz - Released January 1, 2013 | Blue Note (BLU)

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Thelonious Monk was having a rough time of it during the latter 1960s. Experiencing health and some economic problems, he was also in dispute with Columbia Records, whose marketing department was trying to re-create him in the image of a rock star (see the cover of Underground). On top of this, he had lost his core rhythm section, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley. For his eighth European tour, the pianist hired young, unknown players as accompanists for himself and saxophonist Charlie Rouse: Berklee music school student Nate "Lloyd" Hygelund on bass and 17-year-old drummer Paris Wright -- son of bassist Herman Wright. This date was recorded on the last night of the tour at the 3,800 seat Salle Pleyel (the same theater in which a far lesser-known Monk, playing with a local rhythm section, had bombed badly in 1954), and was filmed for French television broadcast. The members of this band had been able to establish a rapport during their travels, including a stint at Ronnie Scott's in London as well as gigs in Berlin, Cologne, and Italy. The show finds Monk and band playing well -- even if, at times, they are just swinging through the tunes rather than embellishing them. The versions of his classic tunes -- "Ruby My Dear," "Straight, No Chaser," "Light Blue," "Epistrophy," "Crepuscule with Nelly," "Bright Mississippi" -- and others are played with a sophisticated command, if not the experimentation they once contained. Wright is a perfectly capable, hard-swinging hard bop drummer; his chops are impressive -- for his age -- if not exceptional. Hygelund is the perfect timekeeper, always physical and in the pocket, and Rouse, so familiar with his boss' music, plays it so effortlessly and perfectly that at times he seems on autopilot -- save for his angular solo on "Light Blue." Monk, despite his health problems, seems undiminished. While there is no dancing, unpredictable bashing of chords with his elbows, or other theatrics common to his earlier persona, his sense of rhythm, harmony, imagination, and swing is ample. Wright gets a lesson in how it's all done on "Nutty," when the pianist calls out Philly Joe Jones (then a resident of Paris), who, though looking haggard, adds a polyrhythmic thrust to the proceedings that emboldens and energizes Monk. Another spot where we hear the pianist stretch is in his uncharacteristically busy flourishes on "Ruby My Dear." This volume is a welcome addition to Monk's recorded catalog; it adds a fine performance to counter the then-popular critical notion that the great composer and pianist was languishing. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released September 18, 2020 | Legacy Recordings

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In 2020, the release of a late-era Thelonious Monk live show recorded at a high school by a custodian may seem like, at best, a historical curio or, at worst, the very epitome of barrel-scraping. But from the first moments of this 45-minute set, it's clear that this unique recording has far more going for it than its provenance or its rarity. But, to be sure, both the provenance and rarity of the recording are worth noting: In the heightened, revolution-ready atmosphere of 1968, a senior at an affluent and predominantly white high school bringing a jazz legend to campus seems like an absurd idea, but this senior was Danny Scher, and this wasn't even the first jazz gig he booked at Palo Alto High (he brought in Cal Tjader during his junior year and would book Duke Ellington a few months after this Monk show). Scher would go on to work for more than two decades with concert promoter Bill Graham, but in 1968, he was a driven and passionate young jazz fan who didn't take no for an answer. So, with Thelonious Monk booked for a two-week stand at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco, Scher didn't see why he couldn't bring the iconic pianist into Palo Alto for a Sunday afternoon side gig at his high school. Monk, having recently released what would be his last Columbia album (Underground), was on the cusp of forced retirement due both to his struggles with mental illness and the generally waning relevance of bop-era jazz icons; at this point in his career, he wasn't turning down a well-paying gig, regardless of the venue. With mthe rest of his quartet in tow, Monk put on a jubilant, tight, and joyous performance in a high school gym on a rainy Sunday afternoon. It's a pretty standard Monk set for the time—just six songs, mostly Monk-penned stalwarts from '40s and '50s like "Epistrophy" and "Blue Monk," as well as a brief and lovely solo piano take on "I Love You Sweetheart of All My Dreams"—but Monk and the quartet (saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales, and drummer Ben Riley) are in light spirit and great form throughout, full of energy and interplay. The quality of the recording— which, again, was made by the school's custodian!—is excellent, with rich low end and a shining clarity showcasing the melodic conversations between Monk's piano and Rouse's tenor sax. The crowd noise is pretty low in the mix compared to many live recordings, and there are occasional moments of audible degradation due to the age of the tape, but overall, this is an incredible recording. The sound is clear, warm, immersive, and enveloping, right down to the audible squeaks of Monk's piano bench, putting the listener right in the middle of a truly unique performance. © Jason Ferguson/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released August 27, 1996 | Columbia - Legacy

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This is the sixth studio album cut by Thelonious Monk under the production/direction of Teo Macero for Columbia and as such should not be confused with the original motion picture soundtrack to the 1988 film of the same name. The band featured here includes: Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Ben Riley (drums), and Larry Gales (bass). This would be the final quartet Monk would assemble to record with in the studio. While far from being somber, this unit retained a mature flavor which would likewise place Monk's solos in a completely new context. At times, this adaptation presents itself more subtly than others. For instance, Monk's extended solo in "Locomotive" never reaches beyond itself due in part to the tempo-laden rhythm section. The contrast of styles, however, appreciates the caliber of this particular solo, including an obvious assertion by Monk which leads the band, albeit temporarily, into playing double-time. Other recommended quartet selections on this disc include a liberated version of the title track, which highlights some stellar interaction between Monk and Rouse. The same can be said for "We See," which features the hardest bop on the album. In addition to the quartet sides, Straight, No Chaser contains two unaccompanied piano solos: "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" and "This Is My Story, This Is My Song." [The original disc only included six performances, half of which were edited due to the stringent time constraints of vinyl; subsequent reissues not only restored all of the previously abridged performances, but also added a trio of sides, two of which ("I Didn't Know About You: Take 1" and "Green Chimneys") are issued here for the first time.] © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 15, 1968 | Columbia

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This release has long been considered Thelonious Monk's acknowledgement to the flourishing youth-oriented subculture from whence the collection takes its name. Certainly the Grammy-winning cover art -- which depicts Monk as a World War II French revolutionary toting an automatic weapon -- gave the establishment more than the brilliant swinging sounds in the grooves to consider. Underground became Monk's penultimate studio album, as well as the final release to feature the '60s quartet: Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Ben Riley (drums), and Larry Gales (bass) behind Monk (piano). One of the motifs running throughout Monk's recording career is the revisitation of titles from his voluminous back catalog. The tradition continues with the autobiographical leadoff track, "Thelonious." The instantly recognizable stride piano lines are delivered with the same urgency and precision that they possessed over two decades earlier when he first recorded the track for Blue Note. The presence of Charlie Rouse throughout the album is certainly worth noting. "Ugly Beauty" best captures the sacred space and musical rapport that he and Monk shared. Each musician functions as an extension of the other, creating solos that weave synchronically as if performed by the same pair of hands. Newer material, such as the playful "Green Chimneys" -- named after the school Monk's daughter attended -- as well as the unbalanced hypnotism of "Raise Four," asserts the timelessness and relevance of Monk's brand of bop. The disc ends as it begins with a new twist on an old favorite. Jon Hendricks -- who provides lyrics and vocals on "In Walked Bud" -- recalls the hustle and bustle of the real and spontaneous underground Harlem jam sessions of the late '40s. It is likewise an apt bookend to this chapter in the professional life of Thelonious Monk. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1961 | Jazzland

Hi-Res Booklet
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Jazz - Released August 19, 2003 | Columbia - Legacy

The mystery and haunting angular beauty of Thelonious Monk's unadorned keyboard sides are the focus of Solo Monk. As if holding the history of jazz in his hands, Monk's solo recordings and performances from every phase of his career remain pure. The components of what made Monk such an uncompromising composer, arranger, and especially bandmember are evident in every note he plays. The disc includes both Monk originals as well as several covers of pop music standards. A majority of these sides were cut during a West Coast swing in late October and early November 1964. This highly productive jaunt would likewise yield two live releases: Live at the It Club and Live at the Jazz Workshop; both would feature Monk's quartet. On an emotional level, however, these sides arguably surpass many of the band recordings. "Sweet and Lovely" contains several passages that are played with the command and intensity usually demanded of a classical work. The intense yet sophisticated chord progressions that punctuate "Ruby, My Dear" transform what once were simple pop melodies into unaccompanied rhapsodies. Monk transforms the solitude of "Everything Happens to Me" into a minor bop masterpiece replete with his signature disjointed phrasings and variable pacing. Parties interested in a more complete retrospective of Thelonious Monk's '60s solo recordings should also check out Monk Alone: The Complete Columbia Solo Piano Recordings 1962-1968. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Jazz - Released December 15, 2017 | Prestige

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It’s surprising to hear that since the dawn of the ‘50s, Thelonious Monk already wasn’t a pianist like the others. Or even a musician like the others… With The Complete Prestige 10-Inch LP Collection, we find five 10-Inches made for the label Prestige which have been reunited, restored and remastered from original tapes by Joe Tarantino: Thelonious Monk Trio: Thelonious (1952), Thelonious Monk Quintet Blows For LP, Featuring Sonny Rollins (1953), Thelonious Monk Quintet (1954), Thelonious Monk Plays (1954) and Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk (1954). Artistically, Monk was already in his honeymoon period even though this perhaps wasn’t the most joyous time in the musician’s life. The law had confiscated his professional card, forbidding him from playing in clubs in New York. But the contract that Bob Weinstock made him sign with Prestige allowed him to shine during this time in the recording studios. So here we find a musician who’s hungrier than ever before. He’s adventurous too. Not to mention being ahead of the jazz of his time. Already, on a few recordings for Blue Note carried out between the end of the 40s and 1952, Monk went down jazz paths less trodden without ever straying off the route. Here, the whole affair is even more striking. Most of all in the pieces where he is joined by another genius, Sonny Rollins, who also devoted himself to shaking up the rules of a thriving musical genre that was at its most intense and revolutionising age. © MD/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released April 15, 2019 | RevOla

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Jazz - Released June 1, 2006 | Riverside

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1957. The two giants of jazz often meet at night on the stage of the Five Spot Café. At the start of this avalanche of New York concerts, they hit the studio, where they would record a dozen pieces for trio, quartet and septet. Incredible but true, these sessions with Art Blakey, Wilbur Ware, Coleman Hawkins, Shadow Wilson, Ray Copeland et Gigi Gryce, will be the only ones where Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane ever play together. If this double-act seems too good to be true, it's worth bearing in mind that at the time, the real star was Monk! Coltrane's name was certainly known among jazz specialists of his time, but his fame was nothing like what it would become. "Working with Monk", the saxophonist would later tell the magazine DownBeat, "brought me close to a musical architect of the highest order. I learned from him in every way.". As the name indicates, Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings is a collection of the recordings of these sessions, which were made up of themes almost all written by Monk. Initial recordings, false starts, alternative versions, studio conversation: it's all there! It's a pretty fascinating document, especially for the way that the pianist welcomes all his young colleagues into his unique musical world, so openly and so freely. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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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 /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1955 | Prestige

Hi-Res Booklet
This disc contains an all-star cast headed up by Thelonious Monk (piano) and includes some collaborative efforts with Sonny Rollins (tenor sax) that go beyond simply inspired and into a realm of musical telepathy. The five tunes included on Work are derived from three separate sessions held between November of 1953 and September of the following year. As is often the case, this likewise means that there are three distinct groups of musicians featured. Whether by design or happenstance, the tracks compiled for this EP present Monk in the favorable confines and settings of smaller combos, ranging from the intimacy of the Percy Heath (bass) and Art Blakey (drums) trio on "Nutty" as well as the equally grooving title track. Both utilize Monk's uncanny and distinct sense of melody and are conspicuous for Blakey's rollicking percussive contributions -- which, at times, become thrust between Monk's disjointed chord work. The larger quartet and quintet settings are equally as inventive, retaining the highly inventive atmosphere. However, the undeniable highlight is the interaction between Monk and Rollins. Leading off the disc is a definitive and freewheeling reading of the pop standard "The Way You Look Tonight." Equally as scintillating is "I Want to Be Happy," both of which are also highlighted by Art Taylor (drums) and Tommy Potter (bass). They provide a supple and unencumbered framework for the soloists to weave their inimitable and often contrasting contributions. The final track is the beautifully dissonant and extended "Friday the Thirteenth," which is ironically the first fortuitous collaboration between the two co-leads. Rollins is able to entwine a sinuous lead throughout Monk's contrasting chord counterpoint. Enthusiasts seeking additional tracks from these and the remainder of Monk's sessions during his brief residency with Prestige should consider the suitably titled four-CD Complete Prestige Recordings compilation. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo