Personnel: Thelonious Monk (piano); Oscar Pettiford (bass); Art Blakey (drums).
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey on March 17 & April 3, 1956. Originally released on Riverside (209). Includes original liner notes by Orrin Keepnews.
In an effort to force the musical mainstream to reasses Thelonious Monk, Riverside producer Orrin Keepnews asked the pianist to record an album of familiar American standards. Much to Riverside's surprise, many of the same critics who'd previously dismissed Monk's music for being too abstract now criticized his new label for putting him in a creative straitjacket. However, with the benefit of hindsight, we can hear clearly the pianist's roots in the Tin Pan Alley tradition throughout THE UNIQUE THELONIOUS MONK.
Monk begins with a hard-swinging rendition of Gershwin's "Liza," introducing some subtle rhythmic variations on the theme and a touch of boogie woogie in the bridge. The pianist's rolling lines and jagged punctuations culminate in a rollicking two-handed assault; although he pulls back in the second chorus to showcase Oscar Pettiford's irrepresibly melodic bass lines, as he and Art Blakey engage in some airborne morse code. After the drummer's thrilling exposition, Monk returns with punctilious accents and giddy trills, making "Liza" one of the great jazz performances.
His solo subtle dissonances, spacious dynamics, pregnant pauses and lyrical abstractions notwithstanding, Monk's solo rendition of "Memories Of You" treats Eubie Blake's classic song with restrained affection. "Honeysuckle Rose" begins with a boisterous stride intro, and proceeds through brassy two-handed passages and a serpentine confluence of horn-like melodic lines. Monk introduces stunning harmonic abstractions to the bridge of "Darn That Dream," expanding upon those voicings with acerbic elan during his solo passages. And his tongue-in-cheek intro to "Tea For Two" is almost Tatumesque--check out the spatial chords he lays behind Pettiford's bass interlude, before decomposing the theme with ribald syncopations, convoluted new voicings and rhythmic changes.
- Format: Vinyl
- Genre: Jazz
- Genre: Pop