Five by MONK by Five: THELONIOUS MONK Quintet
Thad Jones (cnt) Charlie Rouse (ts) Thelonious Monk (p) Sam Jones (b) Art Taylor (drs)
NYC; June 1 & 2, 1959
Straight, No Chaser (9:16)
Played Twice (7:55)
I Mean You (9:43)
Ask Me Now (10:43)
(All selections composed by Thelonious Monk)
This is the tenth album that THELONIOUS MONK, one of the truly significant figures of modern jazz, has recorded for Riverside. Like all the LPs that have preceded it, this one is brimming over with vitality, wit, and creative originality. And like virtually all the others, this one differs substantially from the rest, offering yet another facet of the many talents and many musical approaches of Monk.
This is, specifically, a quintet album (only the second by a five-piece group that Thelonious has made for Riverside, and the first with what is undoubtedly the most frequently-used small-band alignment in modern jazz: trumpet, tenor sax, and rhythm). It is deliberately, and not at all accidentally, a quintet album: conceived and executed throughout as “Five by Monk by Five.” The ‘five’ are made up of what was, at the time of recording. Monk’s regular working quartet, plus Thad Jones. That is to say, a well-integrated unit with a striking added voice absorbed into it.
I find this album, which consists of two new Monk compositions and reworkings of three earlier numbers, to be very exciting evidence in support of the conclusion that there is no danger at all as yet that the deep well of Thelonious’ creativity will run dry or that he will ever drift into the shallow repetitiousness that has at times afflicted other frequently-recorded jazz artists. There would appear to be at least three major reasons for this fortunate state for affairs. One, of course, is that boundless, searching musical imagination that has kept him in the role of pioneer and innovator for two decades. A second is the fact that Monk approaches each recording session most seriously, regarding each as a fresh challenge and a fresh opportunity to speak hi mind. And a third is that this is a musician with a tremendous sense of form and fitness.
These last words may seem strange ones to use in description of a man whose work, to most listeners, has long been synonymous with the unusual and the far out. But there is really nothing inconsistent in this. For one of the most unique aspects of Monk’s music as a whole has always been his extreme awareness of the basic differences that altered personnel and instrumentation can mean in jazz, and his grasp of how the jazz writer should work towards a proper relationship between men, sound and material. This particular kind of recognition of form and fitness is an attribute that Monk shares with a very few others (Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton - each, like Thelonious, a multiple-threat man as a composer-arranger-leader-pianist – are the only other examples that come readily to my mind.) It has constantly led him not only to write music with a specific number of pieces or even specific men in view (certainly a rarety in small-band jazz), but also to review and reshape older selections as his own changed concepts suggest to him that they can fittingly be performed with a group of a different type of size than the one for which they were originally created.
This leads us back to the point stressed in the second paragraph of these notes: that this is a quintet album in its fullest sense. The use of Thad Jones on this LP was something that Monk was particularly looking forward to. Thelonious has always enjoyed being able to spotlight-men whom he feels have been seriously under-appreciated by the jazz public; and Thad, although he has had a albums issued under his own name and has since 1954 been a mainstay of the Count Basie brass section, certainly falls into that category. Clearly, Thad’s swinging power, the slightly acid tone of the cornet (an instrument he has been concentrating on, in preference to trumpet, for the past year), and his Monk-like command of the art of “bending” a musical phrase, were important in Thelonious thoughts as he prepared for this album.
The two new compositions are, consequently, designed for this occasion. Jackie-ing (name for Thelonious’ niece) develops an exotic-sounding blend of cornet, tenor and piano; Played Twice is a title that will make sense as soon as you hear the tune. Of the other three selections, Ask Me Now is an example of Monk’s continual “rediscovery” of his own neglected earlier material: it was originally recorded as a trio number a decade ago and re-emerges now as a haunting vehicle for solos by Thad, Charlie Rouse and Thelonious. Both I Mean You and Straight No Chaser were most recently recorded during Monk’s historic meeting with Gerry Mulligan (RLP 12-247). On that occasion, both were utilized as part of a virtuoso encounter between those two giants. Here, the two horns give that latter a very different ensemble sound than it has ever had before, while I Mean You is the vehicle for an unusual double set of solos, with Thad blowing first, being followed by rouse, and then returning to start a second round of horn solos, with Monk allowing both men to 'stroll’ through their second solo sequences.
THELONIOUS MONK, born in 1920 ad one of the founding fathers of modern jazz, ahs only in the past few years begun to receive the general acclaim he has long deserved (as examples: first place among pianists, in both the 1958 and ’59 Down Beat International Critics’ Poll) … THAD JONES, Detroit-born, is a brother of pianist Hank and drummer Elvin (and related to no others of the many talented Joneses in modern jazz,) … CHARLI ROUSE, one of the abler young Eastern tenors, also qualifies as a drastically under-appreciated musician. He replaces Johnny Griffin in Monk’s quartet late in 1958 … HANK JONES and ART TAYLOR have worked with many of the top names and have been heard on a variety of Riverside LPs, indicating that we and many others share Thelonious’ high regard for both as solid rhythmic bulwarks.
Monk’s other Riverside albums include –
The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall (RLP 12-300)
Mulligan Meets Monk; with Gerry Mulligan (RLP 12-247)
Misterioso(RLP 12-279) Thelonious Monk Quartet with Johnny Griffin
Monk’s Music; with Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Art Blakey (RLP 12-242)
Thelonious Himself: solo piano (RLP 12-235)
Brilliant Corners; with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Ernie Henry, Clark Terry (RLP 12-226)
The Unique Thelonious Monk (RLP 12-209)
Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington (RLP 12-201)
He can also be heard on –
In Orbit: Clark Terry Quartet featuring Thelonious Monk (RLP 12-271)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve)
Produced, and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover produced by PAUL BACON – KEN BRAREN – HARRIS LEWINE
Back-liner photographs by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCITONS, Inc.
553 West 51st Street, New York 19, N.Y.