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Artist: Thelonious Monk
Date Released: 1957
If you haven’t seen the Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser documentary, you really should. Monk is heralded as one of the most influential and important jazz pianist in the genre’s entire history, but he was far from the likes of his more stately contemporaries like Duke Ellington. Watching Monk shuffle around his cat-infested apartment grunting inaudibly about chord progressions is about as entertaining as his actual music. But character aside, he was truly one of the most groundbreaking musicians in jazz music, especially in the progression from swing to hard bop. The popular jazz scene initially rejected his style, which was much more sparse and awkwardly timed, for the first 10 years of his career. In the mid-50s, a struggling Monk signed with Riverside and released the soon-to-be-classic Brilliant Corners all while landing a long engagement with a quartet that featured an up-and-coming John Coltrane. Hugely beneficial to each musician, the pair played together on a series of albums that included this one from 1957. The album does a wonderful job of showing both sides of Monk’s ability. Ruby, My Dear, Nutty and the solo Functional all feature Monk in a quieter setting, highlighting his precise timing and unconventional chord progressions. Off Minor (Alternate Version) and Epistrophy are both driving almost raucous pieces that also notably include tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and drummer Art Blakey. ‘Tinkle Tinkle’ is probably the best representation of their sound, Coltrane’s tenor weaving in and out of Monk’s “sheets of sound” giving the tune an odd but undeniable swing, the epitome of bop. Mpardaiolo