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Customer Review

on 19 December 2011
Monk made a succession of albums for Riverside from 1955 to the beginning of the sixties and they are what established his reputation as one of the great figures of modern jazz. He had been around for years, but had always been regarded as an oddball, playing enormously difficult and usually unattractive music. When he signed for Riverside, Orrin Keepnews, the A'n R man for the label, set about organizing a number of dates featuring Monk in varied company. Almost all were successful, and Keepnews had triumphed in the almost impossible task of showcasing Monk in varied settings without ever compromising his integrity. The records form the pinnacle of the musical career of one of the jazz greats.
This is one of the best of them. Monk is accompanied by Ernie Henry on alto (replaced on 'Bemsha Swing' by Clark Terry), Sonny Rollins on tenor. Oscar Pettiford on bass and Max Roach on drums. All play well. Henry was a little known musician who had recorded with Dizzy Gillespie in 1948 and then disappeared from view until 1956 when he recorded a few times and then disappeared again. Had circumstances been different he could have been one of the greats. Here he solos in an angular, hard blown style that fits perfectly with Monk. Rollins had a slightly difficult relationship with Monk, at least in musical terms, often soloing in a fairly subdued manner, at other times battling with Monk for dominance. Here he plays at his best with Monk, forceful, inventive, and not allowing himself to be dominated. Pettiford plays superbly, precise and swinging throughout. Max Roach, not my favourite drummer plays well, never quiet but never taking the music over as he could tend to do. He solos on most tracks, but never at undue length. He plays tympani as well as his drums on 'Bemsha Swing' and is a bit overbearing but helps give the tune an effective lurching quality. Clark Terry, not the trumpeter you would expect, plays well on this track and sounds wholly at home.
Of the other tunes, 'Brilliant Corners' is difficult, with repeated changes in tempo, but wholly successful. 'Balue Bolivar' is a medium slow blues, 'Pannonica' a slow Monk mood piece where Monk occasionally ventures onto the celeste, and 'I Surrender, Dear' a piano solo. All work well.
This is among the most significant jazz since the war, and well repays investigation.
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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