Thelonious Monk, 5 By Monk By 5
Monk lays the foundation for his legend on this seminal side
Cut in 1959, this is one of pianist Thelonious Monk's better albums, but it's also one of his most underappreciated. Monk appears here with cornetist Thad Jones, tenor saxman Charlie Rouse, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Art Taylor, an all-star line up. Monk wrote two new compositions for the occasion, "Jackie-ing" and "Played Twice" (of which three takes are included). Rouse had been with Monk only briefly when 5 by Monk by 5 was cut, yet he sounds thoroughly comfortable, swinging hard, varying his accent patterns and employing motivic development intelligently.
Thad Jones, one of the greatest and most original cornetists — and trumpeters and flugelhornists, for that matter — to emerge since 1950, also sounds terrific. Monk's compositions are often difficult for jazzmen to improvise on, but Thad, who makes his only recorded appearance with him here, sounds like he's been playing them all of his life; he's utterly relaxed, eating up the changes and making his tone ring with authority. Monk's spare, dissonant solos are always a pleasure to listen to — he's a master at using silence. Sam Jones and Taylor make an admirable rhythm section team, playing propulsively but not obtrusively.
Monk's work in the rhythm section behind Thad and Rouse is often jarring, but galvanizing. During Thad's first solo on "I Mean You," though, he quits comping, and doesn't comp during either man's spots during the rest of the track. As all the best jazz players know, sometimes laying out says more than chipping in.