This disc contains an all-star cast headed up by Thelonious Monk (piano) and includes some collaborative efforts with Sonny Rollins (tenor sax) that go beyond simply inspired and into a realm of musical telepathy. The five tunes included on Work are derived from three separate sessions held between November of 1953 and September of the following year. As is often the case, this likewise means that there are three distinct groups of musicians featured. Whether by design or happenstance, the tracks compiled for this EP present Monk in the favorable confines and settings of smaller combos, ranging from the intimacy of the Percy Heath (bass) and Art Blakey (drums) trio on "Nutty" as well as the equally grooving title track. Both utilize Monk's uncanny and distinct sense of melody and are conspicuous for Blakey's rollicking percussive contributions -- which, at times, become thrust between Monk's disjointed chord work. The larger quartet and quintet settings are equally as inventive, retaining the highly inventive atmosphere. However, the undeniable highlight is the interaction between Monk and Rollins. Leading off the disc is a definitive and freewheeling reading of the pop standard "The Way You Look Tonight." Equally as scintillating is "I Want to Be Happy," both of which are also highlighted by Art Taylor (drums) and Tommy Potter (bass). They provide a supple and unencumbered framework for the soloists to weave their inimitable and often contrasting contributions. The final track is the beautifully dissonant and extended "Friday the Thirteenth," which is ironically the first fortuitous collaboration between the two co-leads. Rollins is able to entwine a sinuous lead throughout Monk's contrasting chord counterpoint. Enthusiasts seeking additional tracks from these and the remainder of Monk's sessions during his brief residency with Prestige should consider the suitably titled four-CD Complete Prestige Recordings compilation.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer