Thelonious Monk, Genius Of Modern Music: Vol. 2 (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Genius Of Modern Music: Vol. 2 (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)

Thelonious Monk
Among his finest

By the time Monk recorded these quintet and sextet dates for Blue Note in 1951 and '52, he was a long way from being a success — let alone a jazz saint. But the original tunes he brought are among his finest: the skittering "Skippy"; "Four in One," whose frantic phrases have tripped up more than one interpreter; "Ask Me Now," one of his lyrical ballads; and the celebrated, stuttering "Criss Cross," abstract even by the standards of the bebop movement where Monk never quite fit. As pianist, he's a trickster who at the same moment could sound like a fumbling amateur, mashing more keys than the ones he slowly took aim at, and reveal himself as a startling modernist, master of impacted dissonant harmonies. His gap-toothed solos gave the impression his pianos had 22 working keys. Monk's thinking was so advanced, his music didn't enjoy wide currency till after his death in 1982. But some folks had been listening.