Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk Quintet

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The Thelonious Monk Quintet EP platter contain the three sides cut by Monk (piano) leading a quintet that featured Sonny Rollins (tenor sax), Julius Watkins (French horn), Percy Heath (bass), and Willie Jones (drums). The recording session -- held in November of 1953 -- displays some formidable interaction between Rollins and Watkins as "Think of One" drives the quintet hard with its quirky rhythms, which include a few notable accents from Monk. It is likewise highlighted by a somewhat telepathic sense of timing between him and Rollins. This camaraderie was not surprising as the two had known each other since the late '40s, even though the stretched-out "Friday the Thirteenth" was the first collaborative effort between them. It is marked, if not enhanced, by some of their most fiery exchanges during this seminal confab. The date was marred by the last-minute cancellation of Ray Copeland (trumpet). He was replaced by Watkins, whose French horn stands out more like a fog horn on these particular arrangements. While less conspicuous, Jones -- who had never done studio work before -- labors in several spots to keep the pulse flowing. However behind that, Rollins examines "Friday the Thirteenth" with a weaving fluidity that invites and mesmerizes against Monk's hard and edgier chords and counterpoints. The scintillating and earthy tone in the tenor sax seems to melt between the decidedly complex and arithmetical flow from the pianist, whose groundwork ably sets up the quirky melody as well as provides an ample bed for Rollins. Without question, the results of this partnership exemplify the real strengths of the musicians -- both as performers and improvisers. Although the backing combo would change considerably, the overwhelmingly positive results of this exchange would result in the uniformly brilliant readings of "The Way You Look Tonight" and "I Want to Be Happy" nearly a year later. The suitably titled four-CD Complete Prestige Recordings compilation offers a more thorough examination of all these, as well as Monk's other sessions during this post-Blue Note Riverside era.

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