THE THELONIOUS MONK-QUARTET-THE COMPLETE STUDIO ALBUMS COLLECTION.

THE THELONIOUS MONK-QUARTET-THE COMPLETE STUDIO ALBUMS COLLECTION.

For Thelonious Monk, 1962 proved to be the year he finally signed to a major label. This was Columbia Records, where The Thelonious Monk Quartet released six albums between 1962 and 1967. By 1962, Thelonious Monk was forty-five, and had released albums for three of jazz’s most prestigious labels. The forties and fifties were the most productive and prolific periods of Monk’s career. His career started at Blue Note, where he released two albums between 1948 and 1952. After leaving Blue Note, Monk signed to Prestige, releasing three albums between 1952 and 1954. The four year period Thelonious  Monk spent at Riverside Records proved the most productive of his career. Between 1957 and 1961 established a reputation as one the most innovative jazz pianists. Apart from his solo career, there were his collaborations with some of jazz’s biggest names. John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan and Sonny Rollins all collaborated with Thelonious Monk during this time. However, it seemed everything Thelonious Monk had released during the past fifteen years was working towards his major label debut.

Between 1962 and 1968, Thelonious Monk was signed to Columbia Records. During that time, Thelonious Monk released thirteen albums. This included live albums, solo albums and six studio albums by The Thelonious Monk Quartet. Last year, Columbia Records released a six-disc box set which features The Thelonious Monk Quartet’s The Complete Studio Albums Collection. Starting with 1963s Monk’s Dream and Criss-Cross through 1964s It’s Monks Time, 1965s Monk, 1967s Straight No Chaser and Underground. The six albums that feature in The Complete Studio Albums Collection include some of the greatest music The Thelonious Monk Quartet ever recorded. You’ll realize that when I tell you about The Complete Studio Albums Collection.

MONK’S DREAM.

Now signed to Columbia Records, The Thelonious Monk Quartet’s debut album for their new label was Monk’s Dream. It featured the quartet of pianist Thelonious Monk, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist John Ore and drummer Frankie Dunlop. Monk’s Dream featured eight tracks, five of which were written by Thelonious Monk. Bright Mississippi was the only new track on Monk’s Dream. The other seven tracks had featured on previous Thelonious Monk albums.

Recording of Monk’s Dream took place at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York with Teo Macero producing the album. The sessions started on 31st October 1962. Further session took place between 1st and 2nd November and on the 6th November 1962. 

On the release of Monk’s Dream on 14th November 1963, The Thelonious Monk Quartet were at their very best. Monk’s Dream featured a quartet that were tight, talented and seemed to know exactly what each band member was about to do next.  Each member seemed to be playing by intuition.They fed off each other. Seamlessly, they drove each other to greater heights. During the eight tracks, a series of musical curveballs were thrown. The tracks on Monk’s Dream were complex and multilayered, and allowed The Thelonious Monk Quartet to begin their career at Columbia with critically acclaimed album. 

MONK’S DREAM.

CRISS-CROSS.

After the success of Monk’s Dream, The Thelonious Monk Quartet returned to the studio with producer Teo Macero. Eight tracks would become Criss-Cross. Of the eight tracks that became Criss-Cross, five were penned by Thelonious Monk. The title-track Criss-Cross is perceived as one of the best tracks Thelonious wrote during the sixties.

When recording of Criss-Cross got underway on November 6th 1962 it was the same personnel that featured on Monk’s Dream. Criss-Cross saw Thelonious accompanied by tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist John Ore and drummer Frankie Dunlop. Further sessions took place in February 26th and 29th 1963. Once Criss-Cross was completed, it was released on August 12th 1963.

Criss-Cross was a commercially successful album. It reached number 127 in the US Billboard 200 in August 12th 1963. The eight tracks on Criss-Cross feature some of the best music The Thelonious Monk Quartet ever recorded. For many critics, Criss-Cross represents the zenith of the music Thelonious Monk’s released during the sixties. It’s as if The Thelonious Monk Quartet have been unleashed. They kick loose and produce some peerless jazz. Monk’s piano playing is strident, confident and inventive, while the rhythm section of bassist John Ore and drummer Frankie Dunlop provide Criss-Cross’ pulsating heartbeat. From the opening bars of Hackensack, right to the closing notes of Crepescule With Nellie, The Thelonious Monk Quartet take you on a majestic, inventive and innovative musical journey.

CRISS-CROSS.

IT’S MONK TIME.

1964s It’s Monk’s Time is the next album that features in The Complete Studio Albums Collection. It’s Monk’s Time featured six tracks, three of which were written by Thelonious Monk. One of the two jazz standards was a cover of George and Ira Gershwin’s Nice Work If You Can Get it. When recording of It’s Monk’s Time began, it was a different lineup of The Thelonious Monk Quartet than had played on Criss-Cross.

While 1963s Criss-Cross featured a rhythm section of bassist John Ore and drummer Frankie Dunlop, they were replaced by bassist Butch Warren and drummer  Ben Riley. Tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse was the only familiar face. Recording took place between 9th-10th January 1964, then on February 10th and March 9th 1964. Producing It’s Monk’s Time was Teo Macero, who’d produced Monk’s Dream and Criss-Cross. However, It’s Monks Time would surpass these two albums.

It’s Monk’s Time was released on 13th July 1964. This was nearly a year after Criss-Cross. However, for music critics and jazz lovers, It’s Monk’s Time was well worth the wait. The album features four performances by the quartet and two solo performances. With the four performances by The Thelonious Monk Quartet, they surpass everything they’d previously released. Similarly, Thelonious’ playing was flawless, inventive and totally peerless. As for the new rhythm section of bassist Butch Warren and drummer Ben Riley, it was as if they were veterans of The Thelonious Monk Quartet. Charlie Rouse who’d played on Monk’s Dream and Criss-Cross, well, he was ying to Thelonious’ yang.

Quite simply, It’s Monk’s Time is one of Thelonious Monk’s last great albums. His playing is inventive, playful and creative. During the six tracks, he delivers curveballs and musical surprises aplenty. Not only does it demonstrate his ability to breath, life, meaning and energy into six tracks, but demonstrates how inventive and innovative a pianist he truly was.

IT’S MONK TIME.

 

MONK.

Monk saw another change in The Thelonious Monk Quartet’s lineup. Bassist Butch Warren whose playing was crucial to It’s Monks Time is replaced by Larry Gales. The rest of the lineup is the same, with drummer Ben Riley and tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse accompanying Thelonious Monk on Monk’s seven tracks. Of the seven tracks on Monk, Thelonious Monk wrote just two tracks. Both pay homage to two important figures in his life. The first was Teo which paid tribute to his producer Teo Macero. His other composition was Pannonica, a tribute to jazz patron Pannonica de Koenigswarter. These tracks, plus the other five tracks that became Monk were recorded in New York during 1964.

Recording of Monk began on 9th March 1964. The rest of Monk was recorded between October 6th and 8th 1954. Producing the latest lineup of The Thelonious Monk Quartet was Teo Macero. Once Monk was completed, it was released in 1965.

25th January 1965 saw Monk released. On its release, Monk was hailed as proof that Thelonious Monk didn’t release poor albums. Monk proved that The Thelonious Monk Quartet were on something of a roll. Each album somehow, managed to surpass the quality of their previous album. The lineup of The Thelonious Monk Quartet that featured on Monk was one that was capable of creating inventive, innovative music that was way ahead of the musical curve. Lead by Thelonious and ably assisted by Charlie Rouse, and featuring a rhythm section of bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley it’s a multitalented quartet. Whether unleashing solos or jamming, as a tight, talented quartet, The Thelonious Monk Quartet’s that feature on Monk were unrivaled.

MONK.

 

STRAIGHT NO CHASER.

Straight No Chaser was the sixth of The Thelonious Monk Quartet’s album produced by Teo Macero. Thelonious relied upon the same lineup that featured on Monk. This included bassist Larry Gales, drummer Ben Riley and tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. They’d record nine tracks, including six penned by Thelonious Monk.

It only took The Thelonious Monk Quartet three days to record Straight No Chaser. Recording took place between 14th and 15th November 1966 and finished on January 10th 1967. Two months later, on 20th March 1967, Straight No Chaser was released.

Unlike the version of Straight No Chaser that features in The Complete Studio Albums Collection, the original version only featured six tracks. These six tracks featured edited versions of the original track. This was because of the time constraints vinyl imposed upon producers and artists. The version that features in The Complete Studio Albums Collection are the original, unedited versions, which feature the music as Thelonious Monk and producer Teo Macero envisaged it.

Straight No Chaser proved to be an uplifting, joyous, inventive and inspirational album. Whether unleashing solos or playing as a quartet, The Thelonious Monk Quartet hardly draw breath. Switching between time signatures, then playing some of the hardest bee bop they ever recorded. It’s as if The Thelonious Monk Quartet are determined to continue surpassing their previous recordings. This they do, thanks to a band that’s not just tight, talented and accomplished, but mature, versatile and capable of moments of true musical magic.

STRAIGHT NO CHASER.

UNDERGROUND.

1967s Underground, with its award winning, provocative and distinctive artwork is the final album The Thelonious Monk Quartet released. Underground is also the final album in The Complete Studio Albums Collection. The album cover depicts Thelonious as a French Resistance Fighter holding a machine gun. Thelonious thought that Underground’s album cover would appeal to a younger generation and would broaden his music’s appeal. Ironically, even without the controversial album cover, Undercover would’ve appealed to a much wider audience.

Underground features seven tracks, including six tracks written by Thelonious Monk. The lineup that accompanies Thelonious on Underground are the same quartet that featured on Monk. This includes bassist Larry Gales, drummer Ben Riley and tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. Adding vocals on In Walked Bud was Jon Hendricks. Recording took just three days, including 14th and 21st December 1967 and 14th February 1968. Despite only taking three days to record, Underground was a remarkable album, that proves a fitting way to close The Complete Studio Albums Collection.

When Underground was released on April 15th 1968, it was both critically acclaimed and a commercial success. Underground later won a Grammy Award for its album cover. However, there was much more to Underground than an award winning album cover.

From the opening bars of Thelonious, which opens Underground, The Thelonious Monk Quartet swing. Thelonious is a track from Thelonious Monk’s illustrious back catalogue, which he revisits and reinvents. It’s the perfect way to open Underground. From there, Ugly Beauty is the only waltz Thelonious Monk ever recorded. The bluesy Raise Four is one of Underground’s real highlights, with a simple, but discordant melody. Of the other tracks, the intriguing Boo Boo’s Birthday has an unusual musical and harmonic structure. Closing Underground is In Walked Bud, which he originally recorded in 1947. Here, vocalist Jon Hendricks delivers the newly written lyrics. This demonstrates just how inventive and cutting-edge an album Underground really is. After all, how many artists could revisit a track twenty years after he first recorded it, transforming it into something new. Along with the six other tracks that comprise Underground, the result is an album that’s innovative, intriguing, playful, spacious, hypnotic and captivating. Like the other five albums in The Complete Studio Albums Collection, Underground features The Thelonious Monk Quartet at the top of their game musically. There’s neither filler nor faux pax on Underground or The Complete Studio Albums Collection.

UNDERGROUND.

Although Thelonious Monk enjoyed a career that spanned nearly five decades, he recorded some of the greatest music of his career at Columbia Records. Indeed, the six Thelonious Monk Quartet albums that feature in The Complete Studio Albums Collection includes the best music he recorded at Columbia. The music on the six albums is an inventive, innovative, sometimes experimental and always of the highest quality. He was accompanied by some of the best jazz musicians of the sixties, including legendary tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. While the lineup of The Thelonious Monk Quartet, this never affected the quality of music that features in The Complete Studio Albums Collection. That’s why for anyone looking to discover the music of The Thelonious Monk Quartet, then place to start is The Complete Studio Albums Collection. Similarly, for veterans of The Thelonious Monk Quartet, the addition of bonus tracks will make The Complete Studio Albums Collection not just a worthy addition to your record collection, but a reminder of one of the greatest pianists in the history of jazz. music.

THE THELONIOUS MONK-QUARTET-THE COMPLETE STUDIO ALBUMS COLLECTION.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: