Thelonious Monk

Bright Mississippi

Song Review by

This is one of Thelonious Monk’s best works from his final years as an actively recording musician. During an era when it became commonplace for Monk to simply modify vintage titles on his studio albums, this modern composition stands as an unadulterated powerhouse. Much of its’ strength lies in the high steppin’ uptempo and quirky melodic structure that are part and parcel of the artist’s signature sound. It likewise has much to do with the inspired quartet that Monk surrounded himself and his music with in the ‘60s.

Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Ore (bass) and Frankie Dunlop (drums) are able not only to keep up with Monk’s oblique and distended chord changes, they also provide a counterbalance from his always unanticipated diversions. Part of their success as a quartet lies in this duality. Individually each musician exercises their ability to both support and lead with equal verve behind Monk’s challenging arrangements. “Bright Mississippi” was initially featured on Monk’s Dream (1963). The highly recommended Monk's Dream [Expanded] (2002) reissue also includes a heretofore unearthed take. Ultimately however, the nod goes to the multiple live versions from the mid ‘60s which have cropped up on a variety of archival releases. Among the most inspirational are the two distinct renderings featured on Live at the Jazz Workshop [Complete] (2001) and the highlight of the otherwise negligible Monterey Jazz Festival '63 (1964). Each reading demonstrates the band’s seemingly palpable improvisational energies.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
All Music Guide: Classic Jazz Solos 2001
Various Artists
All Music Guide / Medalist Entertainment 8:40
N-Coded Music Presents, Vol. 6: Classic Jazz 2003
Various Artists
N-Coded Music 4:42
Essential Jazz Collection [Encoded] 2004
Various Artists
Encoded 4:42