Thelonious Monk, The Classic Quartet

Michaelangelo Matos

By Michaelangelo Matos

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The Classic Quartet

Thelonious Monk
More Monk virtuosity, classy and elegant.

Even with acres of live Monk available, this May, 1963, transcription from a Japanese TV appearance stands tall. Bassist Butch Warren had just joined the quartet for a three-year run, and while on this early date he lacks the finesse of Monkian predecessors like Oscar Pettiford and John Ore (on "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are" he mostly just walks the basic line during his solo), he and longstanding drummer Frankie Dunlop give the five tunes here a hard push that Monk and especially saxophonist Charlie Rouse respond to vigorously. Rouse is in drily garrulous good form during "Ba-Lue," like a long-winded storyteller whose embellishments you never get tired of, while the leader's solo on a slow-drag "Blue Monk" makes off-harmonic pensiveness seem positively giddy. And his piano-only "Just a Gigolo" is murmur-to-yelp virtuosity no fan should miss.