Once, when asked why he played so many weird chords, Monk replied: "Those easy chords just ain't so easy to find now." Listening to his unaccompanied piano performances on In Paris (made in 1954, the first time he had ever recorded without other musicians), the listener will have the chance to hear Monk's brilliant keyboard technique unobstructed, uneasy chords and all. Recorded for the French label Vogue, these nine tracks showcase Monk in all of his idiosyncratic perfection, playing his own compositions (with the exception of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes") with the expressive candor and wonderfully associative, speech-like phrasing and pacing that the lack of a rhythm section allows.
The other 13 tracks are by American-born, Paris-based stride pianist Joe Turner. Hearkening back to the ragtime rave-ups of the '20s and '30s, Turner's style is rollicking and skillfully precise, conjuring visions (even in 1954) of speakeasies and rent parties. At first glance, the pairing of Monk and Turner is incongruous: one is linked to the past, the other the future. But their juxtaposition suggests that they both are part of a lineage: the tradition of utterly innovative American jazz.