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Complete Riverside Recordings
Thelonious Monk
Complete Riverside Recordings
Genres: Jazz, Pop
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #5
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #6
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #7
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #8
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #9
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #10
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #11
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #12
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #13
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #14
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #15

With 15 jam-packed CDs and a well-designed LP-sized booklet with beautiful photos inside, this is the mother of all Thelonious Monk collections. Its supremacy is only in part related to girth and presentation, however. His...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Thelonious Monk
Title: Complete Riverside Recordings
Members Wishing: 5
Total Copies: 0
Label: Riverside
Release Date: 11/22/1991
Album Type: Box set
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Styles: Modern Postbebop, Bebop
Number of Discs: 15
SwapaCD Credits: 15
UPCs: 025218102223, 0090204092079, 025218220019

With 15 jam-packed CDs and a well-designed LP-sized booklet with beautiful photos inside, this is the mother of all Thelonious Monk collections. Its supremacy is only in part related to girth and presentation, however. Historians and critics are almost unanimous in appraising the years Monk spent with the then-fledgling Riverside Records as his best. And this set catches it all, from the moments of deeply inspired, quicksilver genius to the foibles, miscues, and studio chatter (which is very minimal). Beginning in 1955 with a trio recording of Ellington tunes to the slew of live recordings that compose most of the last eight CDs, the recordings here end in 1961, with Monk leading a slender quartet fronted by tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, who would remain with him through many of his Columbia releases of the 1960s. Monk's trail up to his lengthy stint with Riverside began with a short tenure at Blue Note, and while those recordings (collected on the four-CD Complete Blue Note Recordings) illuminate the pianist's skewered take on bebop, sessions like the one that makes up the Brilliant Corners single CD (and that appear, of course, here) show ways Monk was doubling back on jazz styles, piling techniques from the swing era--a more moderated approach to underlying swing, for example--onto his odd voicings on chords, which arrest the ear at every turn. Where the Brilliant Corners sessions show Monk working with a rasp-toned Sonny Rollins on tenor and Ernie Henry on alto, the bands expand and contract repeatedly throughout the 30 sessions, all of them annotated by producer and Riverside cofounder Orrin Keepnews in the booklet. You can hear Monk tailoring his Tatum-esque flourishes on the solo sessions that led to Thelonious Himself and Thelonious Alone in San Francisco and then lavishing reams of reeds and brass when in 1957 he corralled John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins on tenor saxes, Ray Copeland on trumpet, Gigi Gryce on alto sax, and Art Blakey for the Monk's Music session or when in 1959 he led a roiling ten-piece in the At Town Hall session. But the most intimate encounters are the smaller ones, with Gerry Mulligan clearly finding all manner of seams and creases to drop his flowing baritone in on the Mulligan Meets Monk session or with Monk finding an ideal chemistry with Johnny Griffin's fast, tight tenor sax lines. Then there is the microtonal poetry of a 20-minute listen-in where Monk explores "Round Midnight," giving listeners a keen glimpse into the mind of one of jazz's most singularly creative minds in history. With any one of the single CDs that together make up this package, a listener could so easily get hooked into buying all the work Monk did for Riverside disc by disc that it makes sense to take the colossal leap and scoop it all up at once--and then dig way in. --Andrew Bartlett

CD Reviews

$200 for a Lifelong Friend
Dale Chapman | San Ramon, CA USA | 06/25/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Sure, this is expensive, and I really resent the manner in which so many boxed-sets are marketed to exploit "a new angle" of a musician, but this particular example is a goldmine. Save up your ducats (stop smoking, cut out your afternoon candy bar, or start bicycling to work) and buy this box for yourself. Once the box is in your possession, do not rush yourself or over-indulge. If administered properly, this music will reveal its genius to you, and you will create a permanent spot in your life for it in return. Monk made a lot music both before and after the sessions included in this box, but this is the essential stuff. Unlike much 20th century music, Stravinsky's music embraces the deconstructive chaos of "modern" music, and yet somehow retains the balanced building blocks of the classical era. This also holds true for Monk. You cannot call his music "out" or "free", but he clearly throws a hand-grenade into the bunker of convention. He swallowed the sounds & constructs of conventional swing & bop, and spit them out as angular, fragmented ideas that still retained an organic "listenability". His modern approach is not cold or alienating, but adds depth and sophistication to the modes of jazz that preceded him. This music could be a lifelong friend. Is $200 too much to pay for a lifelong friend? Buy it, open it up, and take it along for your journey..."
Remastering getting long in the tooth
N. Dorward | Toronto, ON Canada | 02/24/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I've got this set, & the music on it is unquestionably among the greatest of Monk's achievements. That said, this was released back in 1986 (when it won a pair of Grammys)...and that's the remastering used on the CD set. The sound quality is acceptable but, even without my making a direct comparison to recent generations of remasterings (& this particular catalogue has lately been in the process of a facelift) it's obvious enough in listening to it that the remastering quality is far from state of the art. Live recordings such as the Five Spot sessions with Johnny Griffin sound particularly in need of a careful dusting. Anyway, I certainly don't wish to dissuade Monk fans from this set--clearly, it's the best way to get a hold of this crucial body of work in one lump, & there are a number of tracks here which aren't available elsewhere now. But it's high time that this set be given a repolishing according to current remastering standards. Calling Mosaic Records......"
Monk's finest era
John MacLeod | Guelph, Ontario Canada | 06/25/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Every Monk fan has a favorite period in the jazz titan's career. Mine is Monk's years on the Riverside label thru most of the 50s. His Blue Note sides are hampered by the time and quality limitations of 40s recording, and his Columbias in the 60s have been criticized for a certain sameyness, but I've never heard a bad word about the Riversides. Monk & Co. were finally able to stretch out at length and be heard in excellent sonic quality. Monk wrote many enduring pieces in the Riverside years ["Brilliant Corners", "Pannonica", "Played Twice", etc. etc.], he was joined by fellow titans on most sessions [Rollins, Coltrane, Blakey, Roach, Haynes, Mulligan, etc.], and Monk himself soloed and comped with an energy and inventiveness that he never surpassed before or after. Quite simply, Monk's Riverside sessions are uniformly wonderful."