A valuable meeting of minds
N. Dorward | Toronto, ON Canada | 04/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This disc combines Monk & his rhythm-section of the time--Wilbur Ware & Shadow Wilson--with the baritonist Gerry Mulligan, a stylistically unusual pairing that works out very well. Monk's skeletal chording & frequent preference to have his sidemen "stroll" (play without piano accompaniment) make a natural common ground with Mulligan, who had developed the pianoless quartet in his 1950s groups with Baker & Brookmeyer. Though this session was an informal blowing session, & thus doesn't feature any of Mulligan's sophisticated arrangements, he nonetheless frequently plays quiet counterlines to Monk like he did with Chet--it's an interesting sound, & I've never heard anyone else do this with Monk.The album is a bit uneven, but what pushes it into the first rank is the version of "Round Midnight", which is probably the single best group reading of the tune I've heard by Monk. Certainly it's the best version he did for Riverside except for the solo version on _Thelonious by Himself_. As usual with Monk in this period, his flow of compositions was slowing down, & there's only one new tune on the disc, "Rhythm-a-Ning" (first recorded by Monk for Atlantic a few months before on his collaboration with Art Blakey). The version here is very different from Monk's later recordings of the tune: it has a double-length bridge which seems to give Mulligan a little trouble (he goofs up a little at the end of the bridge on his first chorus); the performance isn't quite together, but nonetheless has lots of meat in the solos & a good vibe, which is I presume why they didn't do retakes. I'm not sure why "I Mean You" needed 3 complete takes, as they all sound pretty good to me--but I certainly won't complain about getting the bonus tracks. "Decidedly" is Mulligan's variant on Shavers' "Undecided", & features a stoptime solo by Mulligan & some of Ware's most intriguing playing--check out his very offbeat solo on the master take, in particular. "Sweet and Lovely" is a favourite tune of mine, & despite Monk's covering it in other places I would again name this as the best group reading Monk gave it.A fine disc. Originally it was intended that the album be split between quartet tracks & a big band arranged by Mulligan, but because the 1st recording session went so well the producer & the band decided to go back into the studio the next day to complete the album with just the quartet. I think that was the right decision. This remains one of the high points of Monk's Riverside tenure."
Mulligan Meets Monk
S. Ferguson | 02/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Real intimate playing between M&M. I listen to Round Midnight constantly. (I play tenor sax and I am learning the licks) All the tunes are great, and there are alternate takes of Decidedly, Straight-No Chaser and I mean you. Some were previously unissued. The bass drum on Rhythm-A-Ning will shake your guts. (That's a Good thing) I just love to crank this up because I enjoy the presence of this high quality recording and I am a big fan of M and M."