Thelonious Monk Trio / Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk Trio

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Any Thelonious Monk album that kicks off with a seven-minute version of "Blue Monk" is worth listening to. Backed alternately by bassists Percy Heath and Gary Mapp and drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach, Monk unleashes his idiosyncratic piano lines against a spare backdrop. Beautifully rendered, the opening piece is a highlight of the album, oddly combining disharmonic riffs within a melodic and very memorable structure. It's followed, surprisingly, by a rather tepid version of "Just a Gigolo," more lounge than jazz in execution. The set picks up again, however, on "Bemsha Swing" and later with a noisy "Little Rootie Tootie," another fascinating study in dissonance with some great drum work by Blakey. Because the album was pieced together from three different sessions, it's often difficult to identify the supporting players on individual cuts. Nonetheless, the small settings used on all ten pieces feature intricate interplay between bass, drums, and piano. They allow the necessary space for Monk's explorations, which conjure up images of a mathematician working out geometric patterns on the keyboard. While mathematical music may sound a bit cold and soulless, pieces like "Monk's Dream" and "Trinkle, Tinkle" evoke a sublime beauty as they build order out of chaos. Intimate, intense, and inspired, Thelonious Monk Trio offers 35 minutes of professional musicians practicing their craft.

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