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Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington (Remastered)

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To put it mildly, Monk had his own way of doing things. This is especially clear on Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington, where the singular pianist and composer lends his touch to another great composer’s work instead of performing his own idiosyncratic (and classic) compositions. He takes apart Ellington’s pieces only to reassemble them in startling ways. Monk might play a few bars that sound like exceptionally thoughtful noodling, follow that by not playing for a while (creating an exhilarating tension), and then pound out a handful of oddly voiced chords. Listen to a minute of the first cut, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and the Bronx-born musician’s genius is readily apparent: the old warhorse is entirely reimagined, allowing the listener to hear the piece with a fresh pair of ears. The album features the exceptional rhythm section of bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Kenny Clarke, whose unerring sense of swing is the perfect counterbalance to Monk’s wild style. However, the pianist — perhaps inspired by the song’s title — does go it alone on “Solitude.” The result is one of the album’s most poignant performances.

Customer Reviews

Recommended Listenting and Study

Sep 8, 2008 NPR played a clip where Wynton Marsalis responded to a question from someone wanting to get a solid introduction to jazz. Marsalis recommended this album specifically. The other recommendation was Art Tatum. --michael g


Only Monk could treat Duke tunes this way and the result is gold. A note to mention - the album summary references a fine version of Solitude (and it is), but it is listed improperly in the tune list. Solitude and I Let a Song Go Out of my Heart are switched here for those not familiar with the tunes looking to preview the referenced track.


Born: October 10, 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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