Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington Vinyl

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Personnel: Thelonious Monk (piano); Oscar Pettiford (bass); Kenny Clarke (drums).
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey on July 21 & 27, 1955. Originally released on Riverside (201). Includes liner notes by Orrin Keepnews.
Digitally remastered by Joe Tarantino (Fantasy Studios).
Tributee: Duke Ellington.
The Prestige label never held Thelonious Monk in the same regard as Miles Davis or the Modern Jazz Quartet, never truly appreciating what they had--perpetuating notions about Monk's personal weirdness and the oddness of his music. Orrin Keepnews was one of the first writers to hear Monk's message on the pianist's early Blue Note recordings, and by the time he entered into partnership with Bill Grauer to form Riverside, Monk's relationship with Prestige had deteriorated. So Keepnews lent Monk the princely sum of $108.27, thus enabling him to pay back label advances, and enabling him to be released from his recording contract.
Keepnews saw in Monk a brilliant improviser and composer who'd developed a provocative band style built around original piano mannerisms--evolving in a direct line from Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington. He was determined to reintroduce him to listeners by placing him plainly within the fabric of the jazz mainstream with a pair of piano trios--one of them being an album of Duke Ellington compositions.
Monk's colorful touch, startling rhythmic contrasts, striding left hand and singular harmonic palette have clear antecedents in Duke's work. Kenny Clarke's subtle Afro-Cuban accents and Oscar Pettiford's firm, melodic bass-lines set the pace on "Caravan," as Monk attacks the theme with spare big band accents and left hand punctuations. Like Duke, Monk's solo flourishes aren't technical displays, but distillations of theme and variation.
Other highlights include Monk's taciturn, rhythmic subtlety on "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" (featuring a brilliant Pettiford solo turn), his cubist intro on "Sophisticated Ladies," the playful intro and dancing variations to "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart," and the bluesy, elegant minimalism of "Black And Tan Fantasy" (with a reprise of Duke's famous coda). PLAYS DUKE ELLINGTON is a remarkably serene, reflective portrait of the pianist as an interpretive artist.

  • Format: Vinyl
  • Released: 9/16/2011
  • Genre: Pop