Featuring three takes of two originals from a quintet date with Sonny Rollins, plus three originals and a standard from a quintet date with drummer Art Blakey, MONK rounds out the pianist's output for the Prestige label. At this time Monk was prevented from working New York clubs due to the suspension of his cabaret card; given that fact, the palpable joy of these sessions is miraculous.
Monk's tart transformation of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" employs a canny dissonance and bent note to set up the horns' entrance, by which time he begins a harmonic vivisection of the tune. As the horns toll away, Monk parodies the melody with trills, hammered tones, jagged ascending arpeggios and cascading scaler passages. His solo begins with witty echoes of a bolero, as he gradually creates a fresh harmonic ecto-skeleton for his melodic variations, concluding with provocative open chords.
Monk creates dissonant, harmonic boxcars and badgering rhythmic passages behind the horns on "Locomotive," concluding with some of his favorite trademark runs. His chording behind trumpeter Ray Copeland's fluid solo and Frank Foster's elegant lines add up less to a "comp" than fresh thematic contrasts, which he expands upon in his own solo, as Blakey runs rhythmic interference. "Hackensack" is a wonderful riffing blues line, with tart intervallic horn accents, and Monk's unexpected open spaces inspire taut interplay from Blakey, concluding with a slick double-time passage.
Of the selections with Rollins and French horn innovator Julius Watkins, "Let's Call This" is another lyric line with a slightly convoluted release (reminiscent of Monk's tongue-twisting "Four In One"). Rollins' solo is relaxed and focused, as he takes lazy arpeggios and gradually introduces complex rhythmic notions. And the theme of "Think Of One" pivots around a single note, as Monk builds tension through the accumulation of harmonic details, gradually deconstructing consonant chords into fractured dissonances during his own solo passage.
Personnel: Thelonious Monk (piano); Sonny Rollins, Frank Foster (tenor saxophones); Ray Copeland (trumpet); Julius Watkins (French horn); Percy Heath, Curly Russell (bass); Willie Jones, Art Blakey (drums).
01 We See
02 Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
05 Let's Call This
06 Think of One - (take 2)
07 Think of One - (take 1)