Thelonious Monk: Misterioso

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The sleeve notes say it’s for those who already love jazz, those rediscovering jazz and the younger generation, presumably who are not familiar with the music. So far, so good. Sort of. But it’s bit of a mishmash and seemingly a subjective choice.

It’s mostly from the two Monk Blue Note albums, but omitting five of the tracks and all four with Kenny Dorham, Lou Donaldson and Lucky Thompson, but including a few from the same session released (on Blue Note) under Milt Jackson’s name. Then, for some reason, Mohawk and Bloomdido from the Verve/Clef Bird and Diz recording. So manifestly not for those who already love jazz – because we will already have these with the missing tracks, although admittedly the original Blue Note albums had a muddled layout.

However, if you want an introduction to Monk’s early music for a newcomer, it’s not a bad choice. The trio tracks show how different Monk’s handling of standards was from any of his contemporaries at the time, and the rest show the correspondence between his playing and compositions, the expression of his ideas, and how rhythmically challenging they were for the musicians taking part.

It’s a treat to hear these at any time – fresh, immediate and immensely appealing – and worth five stars just for the horns and Monk on ’Round Midnight. Shivers down the spine time. But as it omits so much, and the material is available elsewhere in more comprehensive format, only three. Shame, as it stayed on my vehicle’s CD player for days, which must mean something.

Discography
Well You Needn’t; April in Paris; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Ruby My Dear; In Walked Bud; Evidence; ‘Round Midnight; Misterioso; Epistrophy; Introspection; I Mean You; Straight No Chaser; Ask Me Now; Mohawk; Willow Weep For Me; Bloomdido; Four In One; Criss Cross; Eronel; Thelonious (63.08)
Monk (p) with Gene Ramey (b); Art Blakey(d); George Taitt (tp); Sahib Shihab (as); Bob Paige(b); Milt Jackson (vib); John Simmons (b); Shadow Wilson (d); Al McKibbon (b); Charlie Parker (as); Dizzy Gillespie (tp); Curly Russell (b); Buddy Rich (d); Idrees Sulieman(tp); Danny Quebec West (as); Billie Smith (ts). Recorded New York, Oct & Nov 1947, July 1948, June 1950, July 1951.
Dreyfus Jazz 538476652