Thelonious Monk - Mønk
It’s a blessing when albums come to us from beyond the grave like this.
Thelonious Monk’s ‘latest’ release, Mønk, is a time capsule from Copenhagen in 1963, where Monk played with Charlie Rouse on saxophone, John Ore on double bass, and Frankie Dunlop on drums.
Undoubtedly, listeners’ expectations are high for this album, and it doesn’t disappoint.
“Bye-ya” starts things off with a drum part to ease us into the forever-recognizable lead of the tune. Rouse comes in strong with his energetic yet smooth sound, leaving room for Monk and Ore to play through as they feel. Dunlop gets a bit raucous in the second time around the lead, adding some pow to what’s otherwise smooth.
Ore takes the first solo on this track, and then Monk comes in with his usual tasteful mastery. Despite his somewhat quieter, duskier tone, Monk’s playing is invigorating, moving from quick and hoppy to smooth runs and emotive expressions throughout.
The first of two renditions of “Nutty” sneak behind the first track without disruption. I can imagine the mood in the room that night building throughout “Bye-ya:” listening, bopping heads, shouts and cheers where appropriate, probably smiles breaking out across the room in certain moments.
Monk brings the energy down a moment with his entrance to “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.” He runs the lead alone first, and then the band joins with some flair for the next round. This interpretation evokes dimly-lit streets and some kind of city romance.
You can imagine this group of guys having a blast on stage, and if you listen closely, you can hear it – small hoots in moments, gentle singing along with their solos in others.
Monk takes the space to play “Body Soul” on his own, marking the quietest, most subtle moment of the performance.
His technical skill and musical ability shine in the spotlight, with complex runs happening while also holding the rhythm of the tune, making a map for himself for this sweet and almost sad song.
The band returns to “Bye-ya” with “Monk’s Dream,” and finish off with the second rendering of “Nutty.”
Overall, the album listens and feels just like we often want jazz to feel: smooth and drinkable, but not too sweet, sour, or anything in between.
It’s just the right amount of flavour from each musician on stage, with a hint of pure mastery. It’s a real treat.