Thelonious Himself

Credited as one of the founders of modern jazz (i.e., bop) in the ‘40s, Monk had to wait for years before the public finally caught up to him. Musicians, of course, knew about him—Coleman Hawkins, who "invented" the tenor sax in the ‘20s, gave Monk his first record date in 1944—although some derided his lack of piano "technique." However, it was his angular melodies and unusual harmonic progressions that captured the imagination. Best known for his ballad "’Round Midnight," which gets a stunning reading here, Monk wrote more than 70 tunes yet chose to perform only the same dozen or so in a club setting. Most of his recordings feature him in his trios or fronting small groups that, during the last two decades of his career, featured tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. Monk was nearing 40 when he recorded this solo set for Riverside Records in 1957, and his primary influences are easily grasped, especially stride piano, which he uses with great effect throughout, but especially on his blues, "Functional," and the standard "I Should Care." On a very structured "Monk’s Mood" he’s joined by John Coltrane and bassist Wilbur Ware. The XR in this CD’s designation indicates an "extended resolution" process that gives this recording a sensationally warm, clear sound. Another plus is a 25:22 out-take of "’Round Midnight" on which you can really sit in on Monk’s thought processes.