Thelonious Monk is one of the most unique pianist in the history of music. His original compositions, his dissonant chords, and his wild clothing and dancing made him a unique figure in the Jazz community. He has several must own jazz albums and I count Thelonious Monk ]n Italy as one of them. Recorded live in Milan, this album gives us an inside peak into a performance of one of the world’s greatest pianist at the peak of their career. Only recently have I been listening to this album and it has been a joy to listen to so many of Monk’s standards played live. Here are a few of the standout tracks.
JACKE-ING – The album begins with this original and Charlie Rouse wastes no time getting into the shedding. Rouse plays with confidence and knowledge of bebop verbiage. Monk’s solo follows and is vintage Monk. He hints at the melody, plays with a lot of bebop and whole tone scales, and dissonant/altered chords. With the tune being under five minutes, it is short and sweet, and a perfect beginning to the album.
BODY AND SOUL– I picked this tune because it’s not a Monk original, it’s a ballad, and the only piano solo track. I love hearing Monk playing alone. It’s just such an exposed, intimate setting, and I think it really brings out the best in Monk.
San Francisco Holiday– Charlie Rouse is why I listen to this track. His solo is straight up monstrous. He plays running eighth and sixteen note lines flawlessly, and I love the chromaticism he uses. Monk has a nice solo, but Rouse makes this track special.
Overall this is a delightful and must own Monk album. Clocking in at 45:42 it gives you just enough without overstaying it’s welcome. Highly recommend this one if you don’t already own it. It’s also a good starting point for people unfamiliar with Monk because it’s goes through quiet a few of his famous tunes. It’s almost like a best of, but wrapped into a top live performance.