The Genius of Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk

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The Genius of Thelonious Monk Review

by Lindsay Planer

While the sentiment rings true, The Genius of Thelonious Monk (1969) is little more than a reconfiguration of the remarkable mid-'50s teaming of two of bop's concurrently reigning heavies, on the self-titled Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins (1955) LP. This is not the first time that these tracks have been repackaged in various states of thoroughness. Call it what you will, the music contained within can easily be classified as some of the most inspired to feature either Monk (piano) or Rollins (tenor sax). These sides are taken from three separate recording sessions circa November of 1953 and September and October of 1954, with each date yielding a distinct combination of sidemen. Most notable is the comfy confines of Monk's three-piece band with Percy Heath (bass) and Art Blakey (drums). This lineup can be heard on "Nutty" as well as "Work" -- both of which incorporate the tricky timing and arithmetically advanced scores that Monk had become known for. The augmented quartet and quintet personnel includes both co-leads during the bop free for all heard on "The Way You Look Tonight," as well as an impassioned interpretation of "I Want to Be Happy." The rhythm section of Art Taylor (drums) and Tommy Potter (bass) can be heard on these platters, as well as the decadently dissonant "Friday the 13th," which is notable as the first collaborative effort between Monk and Rollins -- although the two had been friends for years. This is an essential entry for all strata of jazz enthusiast, no matter how one might find the music packaged.

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