Thelonious Monk

The Complete Vogue Recordings/The Black Lion Sessions

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The recordings gathered in this package have been issued in a multitude of ways and are available in a number of configurations. The audiophile jazz label Mosaic Records issued The Complete Vogue Recordings/The Black Lion Sessions on vinyl initially, later releasing the title as a slightly expanded three-CD package. Chronologically, the earlier of the two sets consists of the Vogue recordings from June 7, 1954. The Black Lion sides are divided between a second batch of solo works as well as a trio session -- featuring Al McKibbon (bass) and Art Blakey (drums) -- both of which were cut on November 11, 1971. The nine sides cut for the Parisian Vogue label are supposedly Monk's very first solo studio recordings. Each of these pieces aptly capture the angular frolic that defines a Thelonious Monk performance. "Reflections" alternately bops with off-kilter rhythms and genuflects to Monk's recurring fascination with the stride piano styling of James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith. Of all the solo sides that Monk cut during the nearly 30 years he was actively recording, these stand among the zenith of his achievements. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" -- the one cover tune done at this session -- is likewise given a unique and exceedingly Monk reading. Although he would continue to make the occasional public appearance, the 1971 sets found here are Monk's last known studio recordings. Both the solo and trio sides -- three volumes worth -- were cut during a mammoth session held the day after the final "Giants of Jazz" performance in London. This low-key affair truly highlights the brilliance of Monk within a group dynamic. "Criss Cross," "I Mean You," and two extended takes of "Hackensack" make this set required listening regardless of the historical implications.

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