Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Mountain of Monk 4 a Molehill of Money

Happy Birthday Greg Osby!  

I have been enjoying a lot of newly acquired jazz lately.  Today the UPS guy brought me a marvelous little package containing a small Columbia box: Thelonious Monk: Original Album Classics.  I paid about $18 for it.  It is not a new document, as many box sets are.  It simply repackages five original Monk albums.  Each album comes in a little cardboard sleeve with the original front and back printed on it.  As it happened, I had not one of the five, so this was quite a pickup.  The albums are:
  1. Straight, No Chaser
  2. Underground
  3. Criss-Cross
  4. Monk's Dream
  5. Solo Monk
 I have been dancing to all of them (along with my beagle, Bella, who is a big Monk fan) and each is worth a lot more than three dollars and sixty cents.  The first four albums feature Monk's sax man, Charlie Rouse.  The first two feature Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums.  The third and fourth, John Ore on bass and Frankie Dunlop on drums. 

Monk's corpus is well served by some brilliant saxophone players.  John Coltrane obviously stands out, but I have sung the praises of Johnny Griffin more than once.  His work on the Five Spot albums (Thelonious in Action and Misterioso) and on the Jazz Messengers/Monk album, is brilliant.  

Charlie Rouse, who was Monk's handpicked sideman on many recordings, might be Monk's most perfect partner.  His playing is exquisite on its own.  He doesn't play with Monk so much as channel Monk's genius through his horn.  Rouse is one of the unsung heroes of modern jazz.  

Here is a sample: Rouses' solo on 'Monk's Dream'.  My excerpt includes the beginning and the solo.  For Monk's brilliant reply, pony up and get the box.  
Thelonious Monk Quartet/Monk's Dream/Monk's Dream (excerpt)
ps.  While I was writing this post, I was listening to the recording.  It just got to 'Bye-ya'.  Wow, what a piece of composing.  So, well inspired, I give you this cut of another version of the song.  Steve Lacy plays soprano and Mal Waldron piano.  I am too lazy right now to look up the rest of the band.  You get a taste here of the Lacy and Waldron's solos.  
Steve Lacy/Bye-Ya/Steve Lacy Plays Thelonious Monk (excerpt)
Don't miss this stuff.  It's what you want to hear.

Ps.  On his way to deliver my Monk, the UPS guy was stung by two hornets.  Don't let his sacrifice go in vain. 

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