Thelonious Monk – Piano Solo (1954)

FrontCover1.jpgLess than a month after leading a quartet session with Ray Copeland (trumpet), Frank Foster (tenor sax), and Curly Russell (bass), Thelonious Monk (piano) was documented during this June 7, 1954 solo session in Paris for the Vogue label. Over the years these nine performances have been packaged and re-packaged. This mid-’90s CD reissue seems to take a bit of an edge over many of the midline titles as the audio has been remastered and by all accounts sounds excellent. In terms of contents, it is interesting to note that three of the numbers Monk had cut with Copeland, Foster, and Russell on May 11, 1954, he re-recorded in this, his very next studio outing. Those selections include the Monk originals “We See,” “Hackensack,” and cover of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” It is indeed a thrill to hear the artist accompanying himself on eight of his best-known and loved songs. There truly isn’t a dull moment during the half-hour program, beginning with the charm and sophistication of “‘Round Midnight.” With all excessive (read: “other”) instrumentation stripped away, the true density inherent in Monk’s arrangements, as well as his equally complex performance style is more clearly revealed. The hurdy-gurdy of “Evidence” has a playful organic quality that sounds comparatively rigid or structured when placed beside any of the renditions Monk cut in a quartet, for instance. At times, it sounds as if he is genuinely amusing himself as he weaves short responsive phrases. The aforementioned update of Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” is wistful as the melody line spills out, almost as if by accident, from beneath Monk’s fingertips.


The sly understated gamboling on “Well You Needn’t” is often hidden in the context of a larger ensemble. When peeled back, what lays bare are sturdier examples of Monk’s influences — namely the stride style heard in Fats Waller and Willie “The Lion” Smith. Yet he never allows his counterpoint to stray too far. The laid-back and impish “We See” rollicks as Monk’s frenetic runs up and down the keys are punctuated in a taunting manner by emphatically rhythm-centric chord progressions. The pensive nature of “Reflections” resonates with a particular potency masked by the intrusive nature of additional instrumentation. Surely if ever Monk wrote a tune that worked most effectively as a piano solo, it is “Reflections.” And that is a sentiment that could actually extend to the whole (and remainder) of Solo 1954 as well. (by Lindsay Planer)


Alternate frontcover

Thelonious Monk (piano)


01. 1 ‘Round Midnight (Hanighen/Monk/Williams) 5.23
02. Evidence (Monk) 3.10
03. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (Kern) 3.28
04. Well, You Needn’t (Monk) 3.29
05. Reflections (Monk) 5.07
06. We See (Monk) 2.39
07. Eronel (Monk) 2.36
08. Off Minor (Monk) 2.35




Thelonious Monk (October 10, 1917 – February 17, 1982)

Esbjorn Svensson Trio – Plays Monk (1996/2000)

FrontCover1Thelonius Monk was one of the truly great piano geniuses on the international jazz scene.
Esbjörn Svensson is one of the truly great piano talents on the Scandinavian jazz scene.
In some way you knew that they had to meet sooner or later. At last spiritually. And musically.
„Plays Monk“ is the telling title of the CD from 1996 by Esbjörn Svensson Trio (EST).

Ten of the most beloved songs by Monk, from nocturnal, lovingly caressing „`Round Midnight“ to the gay and
sprightly „Rhythm-A-Ning“, gets here a becomingly shining new colour.
In EST we have Magnus Öström on drums, Dan Berglund on double-bass and, of course, Esbjörn Svensson himself, who was an infant when he practically learnt to walk to the sound of „In Walked Bud“.

„My father was and is a great jazz lover. So I was very young when I first came in touch with Monk´s music. He is the kind of composer that cannot be avoided“, says Esbjörn Svensson.
The music of Thelonius Monk is a peculiar mixture of simplicity and and complexity; of larguorous ballads and rhythms turned inside out. The music is a challenge. „You can always give it your personal touch“, explains Esbjörn.


On „Plays Monk“ you notice this over and over again. EST has for instance made is own interpretation of the classic „`Round Midnight“, complete with a new string arrangement signed Esbjörn Svensson. The haunting string section is played by four members of the Swedish radio Symphony Orchestra.

Both Monk and EST have a common determination to go beyond the sometimes rather narrow items of jazz music. This is noticeable if we take a look at the musical past of the trio, who has played with such diverse luminaries as Rebecka Trnkvist, Nisse Landgren, Svante Thuresson, Lisa Nilsson and Louise Hoffsten.

This is definitely a trio who seeks challenges; who wants to try the unexpected. And the spirit of Monk is certainly here, hovering over the recordings that were made together with a producer we do normaly not connect with jazz:
Johan Ekelund, who is probably most wellknown as one half of the successful soulpop duo Ratata.
„He brought fresh ideas into this project. I certainly hope we can record together gaian“, said Esbjörn, who doesn`t want to label himself as ab inventerate jazz purist. Soul and pop is often playd at home, when Esbjörn Svensson himself is there. (taken from the offical press release)

Some press clippings:

“Esbjörn Svensson, doubtlessly the leading pianist in the young Swedish great pianist generation, takes his trio EST into Monk’s world in a congenial way. “ (Sven Malm, Svenska Dagbladet.)

“A giant musicality – to just take something and play it, make it natural and splendid, just like the already legendary trio with Dan Berglund (contrabase) and Magnus Öström (drums) now does with ten well chosen tracks by Thelonious Monk”. (Johannes Cornell, Dagens Nyheter.)

E.S.T at the Barbican

“This glimmering and since many years teamworking trio does really personal interpretations of ten Thelonious Monk-compositions. The rhythmic puls is tangible as is the joy. Esbjörn Svensson’s ingenious and clever piano playing is very strong here, as is Dan Berglunds brilliant bass. Magnus Öström’s drumming is as always very good
and musical. (Björn Borgström, Dagens Industri.)

After all, the album is called „Plays Monk“ – a meeting between talent and geniality. The result? „Rhythm-ANing“, pure and simple!

Recorded by Åke Linton and Johan Ekelund at Swedish Radio, Studio 9, January 1996


Dan Berglund (bass)
Magnus Öström (drums)
Esbjörn Svensson (piano)
01. I Mean You 6.43
02. Criss Cross 548
03. Round Midnight 6.11
04. Bemsha Swing 7.19
05. Rhythm-A-Ning 4.01
06. In Walked Bud 6.37
07. Little Rootie Tootie 4.06
08. Eronel 4.56
09. Evidence 5.03
10. Crepuscule With Nellie 6.40

All compositions by Thelonious Monk




Thelonious Monk – With John Coltrane (1961)

FrontCover1Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane is a 1961 album by Thelonious Monk issued on Jazzland Records, a subsidiary of Riverside Records. It consists of material recorded four years earlier when Monk worked extensively with John Coltrane, issued after Coltrane had become a leader and jazz star in his own right.

The album was assembled by the label with material from three different sessions. The impetus for the album was the discovery of three usable studio tracks recorded by the Monk Quartet with Coltrane in July 1957 at the beginning of the band’s six-month residency at New York’s legendary Five Spot club near Cooper Square. To round out the release, producer Keepnews included two outtakes from the Monk’s Music album recorded the previous month, and an additional outtake from Thelonious Himself recorded in April.[6] The latter selection, “Functional,” is a solo piano piece by Monk.

It was reissued in 2000 on Fantasy Records as part of its series for back catalogue using the JVC 20-bit K2 coding system. Because of the historical significance of this album it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.

Universally regarded as one of the greatest collaborations between the two most influential musicians in modern jazz (Miles Davis notwithstanding), the Jazzland sessions from Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane should be recognized on other levels. While the mastery of the principals is beyond reproach, credit should also be given to peerless bassist Wilbur Ware, as mighty an anchor as anyone could want. These 1957 dates also sport a variety in drummerless trio, quartet, septet, or solo piano settings, all emphasizing the compelling and quirky compositions of Monk. A shouted-out, pronounced “Off Minor” and robust, three-minute “Epistrophy” with legendary saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Gigi Gryce, and the brilliant, underappreciated trumpeter Ray Copeland are hallmark tracks that every jazz fan should revere. Of the four quartet sessions, the fleet “Trinkle Tinkle” tests Coltrane’s mettle, as he’s perfectly matched alongside Monk, but conversely unforced during “Nutty” before taking off. Monk’s solo piano effort,


“Functional,” is flavored with blues, stride, and boogie-woogie, while a bonus track, “Monk’s Mood,” has a Monk-Ware-Coltrane tandem (minus drummer Shadow Wilson) back for an eight-minute excursion primarily with Monk in a long intro, ‘Trane in late, and Ware’s bass accents booming through the studio. This will always be an essential item standing proudly among unearthed live sessions from Monk and Coltrane, demarcating a pivotal point during the most significant year in all types of music, from a technical and creative standpoint, but especially the jazz of the immediate future. (by Michael G. Nastos)


John Coltrane (saxophone)
Thelonious Monk — piano
Wilbur Ware (bass)
Shadow Wilson (drums)
Art Blakey — drums on 03. + 05.)
Ray Copeland (trumpet on 03. + 06.)
Gigi Gryce (saxophone on 03. + 06.)
Coleman Hawkins (saxophone on 03, + 06.)


01. Ruby, My Dear (Monk)  5.22
02. Trinkle, Tinkle (Monk) 6.41
03. Off Minor (Monk) 5.16
04. Nutty (Monk) 6.39
05. Epistrophy (Clarke/Monk) 3.10
06. Functional (Monk) 8.42



Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane – At Carnegie Hall (1957 – 2005)

FrontCover1At Carnegie Hall is a live album by The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane.

It was recorded on 29 November 1957 at “Thanksgiving Jazz”, a benefit concert produced by Kenneth Lee Karpe for the Morningside Community Center in Harlem. Other acts performing included: Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Sonny Rollins, and Chet Baker with Zoot Sims. The recording, by Voice of America, documents two sets by the Monk Quartet with Coltrane that night – an early set (tracks 1-5) and a late set (tracks 6-9), which the recording does not fully document.

The tape was stored at the Library of Congress where it sat untouched, until 2005 when it was discovered by recording lab supervisor Larry Appelbaum. The recording was then restored by producer Michael Cuscuna and T.S. Monk (Thelonious Monk’s son).

The recording has been highly praised: Newsweek called it the “musical equivalent of the discovery of a new Mount Everest,” and editorial reviewer Lloyd Sachs called it “the ultimate definition of a classic”. Soon after its release, it became the #1 best selling music recording on

The discovery substantially increased coverage of Monk and Coltrane’s partnership; the only other recordings known are The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings CD set (assembled from previously issued albums) and Discovery, believed to document a reunion at the Five Spot café in 1958, recorded on amateur equipment by Coltrane’s first wife. (by wikipedia)

Booklet15Larry Appelbaum, the recording lab supervisor at the Library of Congress, came across this tape by accident while transferring the library’s tape archive to digital. What a find. Forget the Five Spot recording that sounds like it was recorded inside of a tunnel from the far end. The sound here is wonderfully present and contemporary. More importantly, this band — which also included drummer Shadow Wilson and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik — had it right on November 29, 1957, at Carnegie Hall. The John Coltrane on this date is far more assured than he had been four months earlier on the Five Spot date and on the initial Prestige side Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane. He’d been with Monk for four months and had absorbed his complex, multivalent musical system completely. It’s clear from the opening track, “Monk’s Mood,” where the pair play in duet, that Coltrane is confident and moving into his own. Monk feels that confidence with his nearly Baroque entrance on the tune. This is a hard-swinging band with two front-line players who know how to get the best from one another. Coltrane knows the music inside out and his solos reflect an early version of his sheets of sound methodology. Check the joyous “Crepuscule with Nellie” for the hard evidence. Coltrane’s cue and Monk’s arpeggios are wondrous, swinging, and full of fire and joy. Trane’s fills on the melody that leads into his solo are simply revelatory, and the solo itself is brilliant. Or check Wilson’s cymbal work on “Nutty” before the band kicks it in full force. Even on the knottiest of Monk’s tunes, “Epistrophy,” Trane shines and takes charge of his instrument while being utterly receptive to the continual shape-shifting Monk put into his compositions in a live setting.

Booklet18There are nine tunes here (an incomplete version of “Epistrophy” finishes the set) taken from early and late performances. These 51 minutes of music leave the Live at the Five Spot date in the dust. This is one of those “historic” recordings that becomes an instant classic and is one of the truly great finds in jazz lore. It documents a fine band with its members at the peak of their powers together. The package also contains voluminous liner notes by the likes of Ira Gitler, Amiri Baraka, Ashley Khan, Stanley Crouch, and others. This is a must-have. (by Thom Jurek)

Live2L to R: John Coltrane, Shadow Wilson, Thelonious Monk and Ahmed Abdulmalik at the Five Spot, 1957

John Coltrane (saxophone)
Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass)
Thelonious Monk (piano)
Shadow Wilson (drums)


Early Show:
01. Monk’s Mood (Monk) 7.52
02. Evidence (Monk) 4.41
03. Crepuscule With Nellie (Monk) 4.26
04. Nutty (Monk) 5.03
05. Epistrophy (Clarke/Monk) 4.29

Late Show:
06. Bye-Ya (Monk)
07. Sweet And Lovely (Daniels/Arnheim/Tobias) 9.34
08. Blue Monk (Monk) 6.32
09. Epistrophy (Incomplete) (Clarke/Monk) 2.24