Thelonious Alone in San Francisco

Recorded in 1959 when Monk and his quartet were at the Black Hawk, this newly remastered CD uses JVC’s 20-Bit system that provides a much higher resolution and results in a sensational degree of clarity. Here, minus his sidemen, Monk explores a handful of favorites and tosses in some real surprises. He opens with “Blue Monk,” which perhaps is his second most famous tune (after “’Round Midnight”) and, tossing in a bit of stride, gives it quite a different interpretation from previous recorded versions. Playing solo finds Monk in a much more relaxed mood and he leisurely visits his classics “Ruby, My Dear” and “Pannonica,” which is given a ballad treatment that differs from the harder 1956 quintet version (on Brilliant Corners that included Sonny Rollins). In performance Monk would lay out (actually he’d get up and do his unique shuffle dance) while his sidemen played; here we get the luxury of having all of him. His choice of some old pop songs (Irving Berlin’s “Remember;” “Everything Happens to Me”) include two versions of 1929’s “There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie” of which he said, “they won’t be expecting something like this from me.” No kiddin’!