Q - 4/99, p.129
Included in Q's list of "The Best Jazz Albums of All Time."
Personnel: Thelonious Monk (piano); Sahib Shihab, Lou Donaldson (alto saxophone); Lucky Thompson (tenor saxophone); Kenny Dorham (trumpet); Milt Jackson (vibraphone); Nelson Boyd, Al McKibbon (bass); Art Blakey, Max Roach (drums).
Producer: Alfred Lion.
Reissue producer: Michael Cuscuna.
Recorded at WOR Studios, New York, New York on July 23, 1951 and May 30, 1952. Originally released on Bluenote (1511). Includes liner notes by Bob Blumenthal.
Digitally remastered by Rudy Van Gelder.
This is part of Blue Note's Rudy Van Gelder Editions series.
Personnel: Thelonious Monk (piano); Kenny "Pancho" Hagood (vocals); Lou Donaldson, Sahib Shihab, Danny Quebec West (alto saxophone); Billy Smith , Lucky Thompson, Bill Smith (tenor saxophone); Idrees Sulieman, Kenny Dorham, George Taitt (trumpet); Milt Jackson (vibraphone); Max Roach, Art Blakey, Shadow Wilson (drums).
Liner Note Authors: Ira Gitler; Bob Blumenthal.
Recording information: WOR STudios, New York, NY (07/23/1951-05/30/1952).
Photographer: Francis Wolff.
The music of pianist/composer Thelonious Monk has always inspired profound devotion amongst the hippest fans and musicians. Swing ear stars such as Coleman Hawkins and Cootie Williams were among his earliest and most vocal admirers, while Monk's influence on Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane (among others) was profound. As a result, his remarkable body of written work and recordings form an aesthetic cornerstone of modern jazz.
And yet, because of the challenging nature of his music, his fabled personal eccentricities, and some trumped-up criminal charges which cost him his cabaret card (essentially denying him the opportunity to perform in any New York City establishment serving liquor, between 1951 and '57), recognition and success were a long time coming for this American original. The works contained on GENIUS OF MODERN MUSIC, VOL. 2 are some of the most remarkable performances and compositions in the history of American music, featuring some of Monk's greatest collaborations.
With its bluesy outline, classic rhythmic breaks and superb melodic contours, "Straight No Chaser" has been a jazz standard since Monk first introduced it with this recording. Art Blakey's animated 12-bar intro sets a perfect tempo with an implied triplet feeling, as Monk's solo proceeds directly from Al McKibbon's sturdy two-beat pulse and the drummer's polyrhythmic proddings. Monk's laid-back groove belies the fierce tension his rhythmic gamesmanship, percussive dissonances, pregnant pauses, horn-like phrases and bluesy bent tones impart.
All Monk tunes are full of teasing interactive themes and startling structural contrasts. As an accompanist, Monk doesn't simply feed vibraphone soloist Milt Jackson chordal backgrounds on the jagged "Criss Cross"--he enunciates a secondary theme of orchestral gravity. And few musicians are willing or able to take on the daunting melodic and rhythmic challenges of such abstract sculptures as the zig-zagging "Four In One," the skittering "Skippy," and the convoluted "Hornin' In" and "Sixteen."