Blue Note was the first company to give Thelonious Monk the opportunity to record as a leader, and he brought many of his great compositions to these 1947-52 sessions for their first recordings, with groups that included g... more »ifted and sympathetic players like drummer Art Blakey and vibraphonist Milt Jackson. This CD's 15 selections contain classic early renditions of the great ballads like "Ruby My Dear" and "'Round Midnight," as well as then-exotic pieces like "Epistrophy" and "Straight, No Chaser" that have since become standard jazz repertoire. Originally released as 78 rpm records, these compressed renditions highlight Monk's innovative structures. This is a distillation of the four-CD Complete Blue Note Recordings, which generously covers this entire, fertile early period. --Stuart Broomer« less
Blue Note was the first company to give Thelonious Monk the opportunity to record as a leader, and he brought many of his great compositions to these 1947-52 sessions for their first recordings, with groups that included gifted and sympathetic players like drummer Art Blakey and vibraphonist Milt Jackson. This CD's 15 selections contain classic early renditions of the great ballads like "Ruby My Dear" and "'Round Midnight," as well as then-exotic pieces like "Epistrophy" and "Straight, No Chaser" that have since become standard jazz repertoire. Originally released as 78 rpm records, these compressed renditions highlight Monk's innovative structures. This is a distillation of the four-CD Complete Blue Note Recordings, which generously covers this entire, fertile early period. --Stuart Broomer
Compelling as a listening experience: also, vital history
William E. Adams | Midland, Texas USA | 07/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These are the earliest Monk recordings to be issued on CD, apparently. All but one of the 16 short pieces is a Monk original, heard here in its first recorded form. Since Monk reused his compositions time and again, with all kinds of fellow players and at widely varying lengths over more than 20 years, the real Monk fan will find this a must-own, and will compare the later versions to these performances. The songs on this disc might seem sketchy and tentative to some listeners, while others may prefer them to renditions which later doubled the length of many items. There are some sidemen present who later became quite famous, such as Art Blakey on drums and Milt Jackson on vibes, but these late-40's releases are worth having because of the odd, interesting compositions and Monk's own evident talent. If you are a casual jazz fan who wants some Thelonious in the home collection, but who cares not for the historic value of the first records by a genius, try "Thelonious Monk/Sonny Rollins" or "Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane" first. Those are even better than this for pure listening pleasure. If you can afford this one as your third Monk disc, you won't be sorry."
Thelonious Monk is at his sparse, melodic best.
William E. Adams | 07/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is only one standout on these recordings: Thelonious Monks beautiful melodic structures. The recording quality, especially the bass, is not stellar. The accompanying musicians, excepting Monk, Blakey and Milt Jackson are so-so. It's the melodies, chord structures and progressions that make you just love listening to this CD over and over again. The way he purposely plays what most consider "wrong" notes to emphasize a statement or simply just to defy the normal route our ears hear to resovle a phrase. Because of the less than stellar musicians I believe this forces the artist to guide our ears along to hear what he hears in his head but this also creates such warmth, as in Ruby My Dear and In Walked Bud etc. that I get the impression that we are listening in on session in which Monk is working out the details - it shows the creative evolvement of his line of thought. His line of thought is unique and awesome. And if for some stupid reason you believe rumors that have stated: Monk doesn't really know music theory and can't really play, then, I suggest you pick up Charlie Christian Live At Minton's (which is rippin Charlie Christian) but also is a blazing Thelonius (and Gillespie!)."
Colley Wilkes | Philadelphia, PA | 07/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are so many beautiful mommments to choose from on this absolutely perfect album...it is the epitome of balance and grace in music.At one time or another, every track here has been my favorite one, depending on mood and circumstance....to give you an idea, I first owned this on cassete, and played it so much that I wore all of the writing off the surface.If forced to choose, I'd have to recommend 'Skippy' and 'In Walked Bud' as the two most representive tracks, simply because they put to rest that long standing fallacy that Monk lacked 'technique'.And of course 'round midnight', which somehow manages to be incredibly sad without being at all depressing.But if you really want a glimpse of Monks unparalleled ability to express emotional depth with a single, perfectly placed note or phrase....just listen to the last little run he tacks onto the end of 'April in Paris' after one of his trademarked pregnant pauses....beautiful beyond the power of words to describe.... Five stars is about nine hundred ninety five to few."
Under the Influence | Illinois | 02/25/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Thelonius Monk is a rare artist, an artist's artist, and this album documents thoroughly the talents displayed by Monk in his early years of recording (late 1940's and early 1950's). A jazz pianist prodigy, schooled and influenced by stride, Monk instantly gravitated to the experimentalist Jazz scene known at that time as Bop. A man of many eccentricities, the most important of which was that Monk tickled the ivories like no other. When you think you've heard it all, again and again, Monk is one of the few that really stands apart.
What more can be said that has not been said by the other reviewers. Perhaps this album is not the ideal for the casual Jazz fan, wanting a taste of Monk from time to time. But its hard to imagine a Jazz piano enthusiast that won't be desiring more and more of his works with the passing of time. Purchase this album and you'll hear Bop in it's infancy. You'll hear Jazz legends such as Art Blakey, Lou Donaldson, Max Roach and Milt Jackson.
This is my personal favorite of all the Monk albums of the dozen or so in my collection despite it having the poorest recording quality. Most of the pieces on this album were re-worked/recorded and inlcuded on later albums with playing time doubled or better. Yet the shorter, original versions seem to capture the essence of each work with no musical verbosity or drowning of that rythym/melody that makes them each so special.
Despite the poor quality of sound, I couldn't find it in my power to rate this album any less than five. The rythyms are just too catchy and unique to give it any less. For someone wanting a video glimpse of the person, Thelonius Monk, check out the authentic shoot "Straight, No Chaser"."