This is the second long-player to be taken from the same August 1958 Five Spot recordings that had yielded the similarly brilliant Thelonious in Action The quartet heard on these sets includes Monk (piano), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Roy Haynes (drums), and Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass). Their overwhelming and instinctual capacities directly contribute to the powerful swingin' and cohesive sound they could continually reinvent. While these are Monk's tunes, arrangements, and band, it is Griffin who consistently liberates the performances. During "Nutty," his flurry of activity -- which adeptly incorporates several lines from "Surrey With the Fringe on Top" -- has a maniacal swing that is highlighted by some definitive counterplay from both Haynes and Monk. Additionally, the transition between Haynes and Monk is organic and seemingly psychic. "Blues Five Spot" -- a 12-bar blues homage to their current residence -- features solos from each band member. Griffin and Monk again display the seemingly innate ability to instantly recalculate chord structures as well as transmute melodies. The show-stopping solo vamp from Griffin hurls the rhythm along while simultaneously dropping in quotes from other tunes -- such as the theme for the animated Popeye cinematic shorts. Malik's brief solo, like his band interaction, is underrated yet precisely executed. The title track is given an exploratory performance. While Griffin aptly seizes the reins to blow his bop onslaught, Haynes' natural and subdued agility perfectly supports the extended tenor solo, creating some unique passages. Ironically, the one Monk solo performance, "Just a Gigolo," is the only composition not by Monk.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer