With a handful of Prestige dates and an ample supply of Riversides to choose from, Fantasy came up with a wide-ranging sampler of Thelonious Monk's idiosyncratic work on ballads, his own and those of others. Monk's angular, stabbing manner is anything but pretty, but he gives a refreshingly sardonic twist to such standards as "I Surrender Dear," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Mood Indigo" and "Tea for Two." Fantasy mixes up the formats throughout, with lots of solo Monk, combos ranging from a drumless trio on "Monk's Mood" to a septet on "Crepuscule with Nellie." The set is bracketed by two versions of "Ruby, My Dear," recorded within months of each other in 1957, but with Coleman Hawkins manning the tenor on one version and John Coltrane on the other -- both eloquently -- one can easily excuse the duplication. Everything here has long been out on CD, and there are understandably no hard swingers, but in all, this is not a bad introduction to what is often considered Monk's best period.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell