As part of Concord Jazz Very Best Of series, pianist and composer Thelonious Monk is spotlighted on ten previously released cuts taken from his stints with Prestige and Riverside in the '50s. The ten tracks, aimed at the casual listener, include the modern jazz classics composed by Monk, "Round Midnight," Ruby, My Dear," "Hackensack," "Blue Monk," "Bemsha Swing ," and "Well, You Needn't ." Monk also pays homage to two of his early piano influences, Duke Ellington on his "Sophisticated Lady," and a standard written by Fats Waller and Andy Razaf, "Honeysuckle Rose." Appearing on these various dates are an extraordinary roster of musicians including saxophonists Sonny Rollins, Frank Foster, Gigi Gryce, John Coltrane, and Coleman Hawkins, not to mention Monk's choice of drummers -- those who could do justice to his challenging angular rhythms -- Art Blakey, Max Roach, and Kenny Clarke. This is a decent budget-line collection but the better choice is the double-disc, 21-track compilation The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside, which makes a fine companion to The Essential Thelonious Monk, on Blue Note, which spotlights the years 1947-1952, and Columbia's 1962-1968. Keep in mind that all the original albums remain in print as well.
AllMusic Review by Al Campbell