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Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1

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Album Review

Volume 1 of the two-volume Genius of Modern Music set comprises the first sessions Thelonious Monk recorded as a leader, on October 15 and 24 and November 21 of 1947. It's impossible to overstate the importance of these sessions. They include some of the earliest recordings of Monk compositions that would become standards, despite their angularity and technical difficulty: the strange, sideways chord progression of "Thelonious"; the bouncy and cheerful but melodically cockeyed "Well, You Needn't"; the post-bop Bud Powell tribute "In Walked Bud"; and, of course, "'Round Midnight," which is now one of the most frequently recorded jazz compositions ever. There are kinks to be worked out: Art Blakey's drumming is fine, but he obviously hasn't quite taken the measure of Monk's compositional genius, and on the November session, alto saxophonist Sahib Shihab employs a fat, warbly tone that sounds out of place. But the excitement of discovery permeates every measure, and Monk himself is in top form, his solos jagged and strange, yet utterly beautiful. This first volume of Genius of Modern Music, along with the second, belongs in every jazz collection.

Biography

Born: 10 October 1917 in Rocky Mount, NC

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

The most important jazz musicians are the ones who are successful in creating their own original world of music with its own rules, logic, and surprises. Thelonious Monk, who was criticized by observers who failed to listen to his music on its own terms, suffered through a decade of neglect before he was suddenly acclaimed as a genius; his music had not changed one bit in the interim. In fact, one of the more remarkable aspects of Monk's music was that it was fully formed by 1947 and he saw no need...
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