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The Best of Thelonious Monk

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Album Review

Offering a "best-of" package from Thelonious Monk is a daunting task, even if the compiler sticks to his Riverside material between 1955 and 1960. Such a package, for instance, could only hint at the riches of an album like Brilliant Corners and Monk's Music. But why shouldn't a newcomer to the works of Monk have one great disc to draw him or her in? The Best of Thelonious Monk accomplishes just that, compiling pieces from the above mentioned albums, live tracks, and even a lovely solo version of the pianist's best-known piece, "'Round Midnight." The disc is packed — with one exception — with Monk's compositions, thus introducing the novice to all aspects of his work. Monk's joined by a who's who list of modern jazz greats including saxophonist John Coltrane, drummer Art Blakey, and tenor Sonny Rollins for trios, quartets, quintets, and sextets. There's a tremendous 11-minute take on "Well, You Needn't" and a nice interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Caravan." As this disc plainly shows, Monk's writing and piano style was beautifully idiosyncratic, and quite unlike anything else at the time or since. His solos on "Well, You Needn't" and "Brilliant Corners" range between mathematically precise to abstract, spinning precise patterns and then drifting freely. But while Monk's music was always difficult, he — like Charles Mingus — never forgot to write intriguing melodies. For those who have never experienced the brilliance of one of jazz's most distinct stylists, The Best of Thelonious Monk is a grand place to start. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi


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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