Thelonious Monk was a brilliant improviser, using his incredible rhythmic sense and his harmonic ingenuity to find new possibilities in his own works or standards while touching on the wellsprings of the blues and early ja... more »zz piano styles. Those gifts were never more apparent than in his whimsical and inspired solo performances, like this one from 1959. In addition to the usual fare, Monk could always reach into a treasure trove of pop songs others had forgotten. Here he makes original music out of the ancient and ephemeral "There's Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie," and he manages to do it on two separate takes. --Stuart Broomer« less
Thelonious Monk was a brilliant improviser, using his incredible rhythmic sense and his harmonic ingenuity to find new possibilities in his own works or standards while touching on the wellsprings of the blues and early jazz piano styles. Those gifts were never more apparent than in his whimsical and inspired solo performances, like this one from 1959. In addition to the usual fare, Monk could always reach into a treasure trove of pop songs others had forgotten. Here he makes original music out of the ancient and ephemeral "There's Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie," and he manages to do it on two separate takes. --Stuart Broomer
"Thelonious Sphere Monk - brilliant pianist, quirky composer. His offbeat sense of harmonics and unusual musical sensibility may have gotten him kicked out of the Julliard music school and made his material a tad skewed for the casual listener to follow - now just as much as then - but to those willing to make a little adjustment, it's the reason he's always been such a complete original. He worked chords and combinations out of a piano that no one else ever thought of. The man was brilliant in any context, but I say his solo albums are the best way of hearing an eccentric genius at work. He plays around with ideas and variations like a sculptor with clay: old standards are given a new twist, his own past songs are nudged and prodded into shapes they'd never seen before, and there's never a lack of new ideas brought to the table.Different people's ratings of the man's albums are always individual things, but Alone in San Francisco has always been my favorite. As usual you can't always know what to expect. The mood is predominantly quiet and reflective with a touch of the blues: "Blue Monk" (go figure), "Round Lights" and "Bluehawk" are all basically blues tunes, but even within that framework the playful improv work makes them almost nothing alike. The only track that took more than one take is not a Thelonious original, but an obscure 1920s pop tune ("they won't be expecting anything like this from me," he's quoted in the liners). There's some ear-tweaking trick or quirk around every corner here. The compositions don't usually follow standard keys or modes as we know them. When there's a catchy right-hand melody being woven, the block chords underneath it follow an unusual progression that doesn't match up the way you'd expect. Even the timing's sometimes weird, as in the opening to "Everything Happens to Me".. but somehow everything sounds natural with a logic all its own, if you just listen for it.Short but sweet at 45 minutes, more easy and accessible than some other choices (e.g. Brilliant Corners or Underground), and usually pretty well priced, this disc makes a great introduction for those new to Monk. Solo Monk also makes a worthy find in this vein since it's got more alternate takes, giving a better picture of just how unique every TM performance was, but Alone in SF has always connected with me on a more personal level. As one of the reviewers below said, it's got the perfect empty-club-at-closing-time feel; quiet but not lonely, subdued yet peaceful. This is the one to unwind with while by yourself.. or with the kind of company that doesn't mind sharing a little quiet time. Newcomers, try this or Straight, No Chaser for a good first taste. Established fans: this one shouldn't disappoint in the least."
The best monk recording for me
johnnyqb | 04/20/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have quite a few monk recordings and love his work with the full groups, but I really like this recording which shows him off more than other recordings. This is the best monk solo recording vs. the two others commercially available. Also check out Mingus Plays Piano."
My favorite jazz cd
johnnyqb | United States | 05/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are simply no other records, to me, that capture a sense of harmony, melody, beauty, pain, loneliness, joy, all in one magical recording. This set was recorded in the afternoon between shows in San Fran. The song selection is amazing. This is a record I never put away for long. It has a magical spontaneity to it. Monk's playing is brilliant, but he has that Neil Young-type quality of being slightly flawed or imperfect in evertying he does. This is why I love his music (and Neil's too)."
You need to hear Monk solo
Hank Schwab | Indianapolis, IN USA | 01/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you like Monk, but don't own any of his solo recordings, you need to. His playing was dramatically different without a group behind him. While his ensemble playing is wild and loose, truly improvisational, his solo playing is even and disciplined. He strikes a perfect balance between joy and melancholy. To get a true picture of Monk, you have to have his solo material."
A class by himself
M. Bromberg | Atlanta, GA United States | 05/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These recordings have a richness that any Monk fan will admire: alone, with no backing musicians, Thelonious takes solo flight on his own tunes as well as some well-chosen standards. Consider the beat movement well underway in San Francisco at the time, with an emphasis on individual expression, and the album takes on classic status: as Orrin Keepnews notes, Monk was in "a predominantly lyrical and introspective mood" during these sessions, undercutting the image of the pianist as a distant and difficult artist.
There had been a solo album two years earlier, "Thelonious Himself," more angular and nearly mathematical in approach, but "Alone" is clearly romantic: "Ruby My Dear," a heartbreaking cover of "Everything Happens to Me," Irving Berlin's swooning "Remember," and a gorgeous reading of "Blue Monk" are standouts. Perhaps Monk and Riverside Records were attempting to capitalize on his newfound critical success -- and the popularity of other albums by pianists like Erroll Garner -- but "Alone in San Francisco" is Monk in his purest form. unaccompanied. It offers a chance "to hear Thelonious as he thinks and sounds when he has chosen to be ... complete in himself," as Keepnews emphasizes in the liner notes. After nearly fifty years, the album's still a beauty."