THELONIOUS MONK: The Complete Quartet Columbia Studio Recordings (6CD)

After nearly a decade of historic, career-defining LPs for top jazz independent labels Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside from 1952 to 1961, piano colossus Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) arrived in 1962 at Columbia, the first and only major record label affiliation of his career.

There he released six masterful, distinctive albums (all produced by Teo Macero) that are as integral to his lifetime's work as anything he created before or after.  Monk's Dream was his Columbia debut, a quartet date with longtime stalwarts tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist John Ore, and drummer Frankie Dunlop.  The program consisted of Monk originals along with solo performances on the standards "Body and Soul" and "Just a Gigolo."

The quartet returned with Criss Cross in '63, again a program of Monk originals (including his classic "Crepuscule For Nellie") offset by two standards, a trio take (sans Rouse) of the stride piano workout "Tea For Two" and a solo on "Don't Blame Me." The backdrop for the 1964 album It's Monk's Time was Monk's presence on the cover of Time magazine in February, just months after JFK's assassination (the week of which the cover had originally been scheduled).  Monk and Rouse were now playing with bassist Butch Warren and drummer Ben Riley.

The LP showcased them on three originals and a Monk-styled send-up of "Lulu's Back in Town."  Monk's (by now expected) solo standards comprised "Nice Work if You Can Get It" and Eubie Blake's sweet "Memories of You."  In '64, Monk. (period!), featured new bassist Larry Gales, and a program heavy on standards like the Al Jolson chestnut "Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)," and "Just You, Just Me" which is credited as the source for Monk's signature, "Evidence."

The same lineup (with Rouse, Gales and Riley) was intact for 1966's Straight, No Chaser, which benefits from the extra time of the 1996 CD.  It added alternate takes and unreleased material ("I Didn't Know About You" and Monk's "Green Chimneys") plus full-length versions of tracks that were severely edited for the LP. 1968's Underground, Monk's Columbia swan song as well as the last assembly by this quartet, earned a place in many LP collections because of its Grammy Award®-winning 'underground' bunker cover photo.

Several new pieces are introduced by the composer including "Ugly Beauty," "Boo Boo's Birthday," and "Green Chimneys" (although first recorded during the earlier Straight, No Chaser sessions -- as above -- the first released version of "Green Chimneys" to have actually been released was this one on Underground).  We end with a bow to fellow piano great Bud Powell, "In Walked Bud," with hip new lyrics and vocal by Jon Hendricks.

Over the course of this box many of Monk's most beloved compositions are heard in new versions including "Bye-Ya," "Rhythm-A-Ning," "Criss-Cross," "Think Of One," "Pannonica," "Epistrophy," "Straight, No Chaser," and many more.

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