Many great artists in the 20th century have had their work fall victim to accidents, greedy labels, or in the case of this LP, forgetfulness. MONK is a live taping of a quartet performance headed by Thelonious Monk back from 1963. Jazz, especially freeflow jazz, is not a popular genre in this era of music for this generation of people by a long shot. However, there is a special something in jazz that every music listener can latch onto.
Thelonious Monk can be regarded as one of the most talented pianists of the latter half of the 1900’s. His hard edge and spontaneous playing style of the time separated him from most other artists and made a way for new genres such as bebop to become prevalent in the mainstream jazz scene of the 60’s. Other Thelonious Monk LP’s I would recommend would for sure be Straight No Chaser in which the title is sure to have a riff that you remember hearing at one time or another. As well as Big Band And Quartet In Concert.
MONK itself is a classic live performance with all sort of subtle nuances that can only be captured in the moment. “Bye-Ya” pushes Thelonious to the background for a moment with a saxophone lead from Charlie Rouse, but as it faded back in there are tiny leitmotifs often found in latin or flamenco jazz. The entirety of the song stays true to improvisational jazz with moments of bebop that add a nice groove to really focus in on. The next track “Nutty” features more jagged chord progressions that reach but still connect well with each other. In terms of bass line, the hypnotic scales going up and down throughout the duration of the track create a beautiful plateau for the sax and piano to circle each other. My personal favorite of the LP hands down goes to “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”. The playful intro almost paints the story of a guy sitting at a bar by himself, at least in his head, and catching the glance of a special someone coming in through the door. Notes of the saxophone create a sort of rising action in which the man goes over or gets the nerve to talk to this woman. All the while the bass line kicks into bebop to enhance the sense of levity and sensuality in the air. Monk’s riff falling down has to be the dancing and then the walk home where this guy truly is enamored by this girl.
This LP, MONK, is perfect for the new jazz listener. With a relatively short run time for a jazz album at 41 minutes, it falls in the line between experimental and catchy. Thelonious Monk shows that same old side of himself in this album that really puts heart and emotion into its core and can’t help but change the listener in the course of the viewing.