5 classic albums by pianist Thelonious Monk – all brought together in a set that features the records in tiny LP-styled sleeves! On the first record, Thelonious Monk plays the music of Duke Ellington – but as you can imagine, the sound here is quite different than usual! At a time when Ellington was working mostly in large group format for the mainstream, Monk's presentation of his standards in trio format is a wonderful way to unlock their nascent modernism – the angular tones, lines, and complex ideas that were still present in the orchestra readings of the tunes, but which would show up even more strongly in Duke's smaller group dates of the 60s. Many numbers bear the familiar Monk imprint – complicated lines on the keys and sharp changes that really reignite the numbers – and rhythm here is from Oscar Pettiford on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums. Titles include "Mood Indigo", "It Don't Mean A Thing", "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good", and "Caravan". Unique Thelonious Monk is billed as "very personal treatments of great standards" – and it's a great twist on familiar material, all given the Thelonius touch! There's less of Monk's creative composition and angular group arrangements going on here – and instead, the album's almost a rewriting of 40 years of popular compositions, all taken into the modern world of Monk's piano. The group's a trio, with Oscar Pettiford on bass and Art Blakey on drums – and titles include nicely reworked versions of "Just You Just Me", "Memories Of You", "Liza", "Darn That Dream", and "Tea For Two". Brilliant Corners is a brilliant title for this brilliant album from Thelonious Monk – a set that really has him coming back strongly in the second half of the 50s – with a new talent for arrangements that really goes past his previous work! Monk's piano and compositions are every bit as great as before – but what really makes the album amazing is his ear for horn lines – particularly the alto of Ernie Henry and tenor of Sonny Rollins, both of whom add in an additional angular quality to Monk's groove. Clark Terry replaces
Henry on a few numbers – and the rhythm is from the wonderful team of Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach – on classic long takes of "Brilliant Corners", "Ba-Lue Bolivar Blues Are", "Pannonica", and "Bemsha Swing". At The Blackhawk is a stunning pre-Columbia session from Thelonious Monk – a really great live date that has Monk's familiar quartet augmented by west coast players Joe Gordon on trumpet and Harold Land on tenor! Given that Charlie Rouse is already in the group on tenor, the addition of Land's horn makes for a very soulful set – and Gordon's one of those players we love whenever we get a chance to hear him on record, which isn't that often, given how few sessions he cut! Other players include John Ore on bass and Billy Higgins on drums – and titles include "Four
In One", "Let's Call This", and "Worry Later". Thelonious Monk In Italy was recorded early in the 60s with his famous quartet that included Charlie Rouse on tenor! Even at this point before the Columbia sides, Rouse is already amazing – really stretching out in these modern, angular lines that are quite different than any of his recordings a few years before – a perfect match for the inventive piano of Monk, as would later be demonstrated on a host of classic studio recordings. There's an open, spontaneous energy between the pair in this live setting, though – almost like they're working out new ideas, but doing so perfectly – with the bass of John Ore and drums of Frankie Dunlop to round things out. Titles include "Bemsha Swing", "Crepuscule With Nellie", "San Francisco Holiday", "Body & Soul", "Straight No Chaser", and "Epistrophy".