Thelonious Monk - Thelonious Himself (Keepnews Collection) (Music CD)
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Those accustomed to the effusive stylings of keyboard masters such as Art Tatum might be baffled by Monk's approach. Monk is essentially a minimalist, a virtuoso of color, accent and space, who relinquished the technical trappings of his craft in pursuit of a specific aesthetic vision. Strip away the more extravagant aspects of Tatum's art--the showy runs, the ornate grace notes, the profuse modulations and asides--and you're left with an advance harmonic thinker, firmly rooted in the rhythmic pulsation of stride, not unlike Monk's "Functional". The main difference being that where Tatum compulsively fills space, Monk (like Basie) establishes a masterful sense of implication, so that listeners finish phrases in their own minds.
Like a great actor finding heretofore obscure layers of meaning in a familiar soliloquy, Monk takes familiar themes such as "April In Paris", "I Should Care" and "Almost Alone" and distills them down to a singing essence. Where most pianists would simply expand upon the tune (or employ the chord changes as a showcase for their own variations), Monk keeps everything focused on thematic materials. You can hear Monk working towards this goal on the work-in-progress CD bonus track of his own classic theme, "'Round Midnight", and on the conclusive master take. For his final selection, "Monk's Mood", the pianist insisted on adding bassist Wilbur Ware and an up-and-coming tenor saxophonist named John Coltrane. By allowing them to italicize and expand upon his bass lines and lead melody, Monk enabled listeners to zero in on the essence of his solo and ensemble styles.
1. April In Paris
2. I Don'T Stand a Ghost of a Chance
4. I'M Getting Sentimental Over You
5. I Should Care [Take 3]
6. `Round Midnight
7. All Alone
8. Monk'S Mood
9. Monk'S Mood [False Start]
10. I Don'T Stand a Ghost of a Chance
11. Functional [Take 1]
12. I Should Care [Take 1]
13. I Should Care [Take 2]