The second volume in this two-disc series displays Thelonious Monk coming into his own fully as a leader. The program consists almost entirely of original compositions, and in fact it opens with two of his most difficult: "Four in One" (with its conventional bop intro that leads into a bizarre, repeated five-against-two quintuplet sequence) and the forbiddingly abstract "Criss Cross." Get through those and you'll eventually be rewarded with the relatively straightforward, blues-based "Straight No Chaser" and the sweet ballad "Ask Me Now," among other treats. Sidemen include the young trumpeter Kenny Dorham and bassist Al McKibbon, as well as a more clued-in Art Blakey and (replacing Blakey on half of the program) Max Roach. Sahib Shihab's sax tone is more appropriate this time out, and the production quality is somewhat better. This disc, along with Volume 1, belongs in every jazz collection.
AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson