Thelonious Monk's output was sometimes stellar, sometimes mundane. In contrast to the disappointing Monk's Blues, this album is of the former genre. Monk's playing is both inspired and lively; his signature off notes are always right on. The additional tracks, although alternate takes, do not sound in the least bit redundant or out of place. This is an enjoyable album from start to finish.
on July 2, 2004
Of the dozen or so Monk albums in my collection this album positions itself as one of my top three favorites - with a large margin of endearment. Not unlike other albums released by Monk in the late '50's and beyond, herein Monk spreads out his pieces with lengthy solos and rythmic toying. New renditions of earlier concieved works are laid down with double or more playing time; not something that I find more oft to be a positive attribute.
However, this album is an exception. The essence of these works is not lost during the expanses of soloing and the melodies live beyond the confines of the jewel case. This is the kind of music that you just can't get out of your head and will actually enjoy humming when the CD ain't around. Also noteworthy, sound quality is vastly improved over early recordings of Monk.
If you don't own The Best of the Blue Note Years, it is highly recommended that you purchase both albums. For glimpses of the mad genius, try the video Straight, No Chaser.
on November 15, 2003
We all know Monk was a genius when it came to composition. What's most remarkable to me in this set is his genius as jazz pianist.
For his brilliance as a pianist, check out "Bright Mississippi," which, with "Epistrophe," is one of his most challenging compositions. What strikes me about his playing on this cut, besides the bizarro yet perfectly apt chord voicings, is the incredible way he mixes comping, soloing, and group interaction. It's almost as if he's defined an entirely new approach to jazz piano. Amazingly, Charlie Rouse, his long-time collaborator on sax, seems to have perfectly picked up on the vibe, spinning off a wonderful solo that somehow melds perfectly into the group ineractive vibe laid down in the first few bars. It's almost as if this group has figured out a new way to play jazz--not the traditional statement of the head, solo improv by each instrument, then a return to the head--but rather solo/group interaction with no clear delination between who's soloing and who's comping. And this glorious democracy of group improv continues throughout this entire remarkable disc, surely a landmark in the history of jazz music.
Undoubtedly, this vibe has been picked up by any number of the hottest trio jazz units, from Jason Moran to Jean-Michel Pilc to Frank Kimbrough. Indeed, as great a composer as he was--and I in no way want to diminish his contribution here--Monk was perhaps as great an innovator in terms of his understanding of jazz small-group communication and interaction.
This disc, his first for a major label, Columbia, is also a high point not only in his career, but in the history of jazz. Joining a roster that included Leonard Bernstein, Barbra Streisand, and Bob Dylan, Monk, entirely on his own terms, without the slightest hint of compromise, took the label by storm. Having perfected his idiosyncratic style through the late 40's and 50's, he was now fully equipped to unleash his full-blown jazz brilliance on a wider audience.
Having honed both his piano chops and his unique group-improv approach, he was fully prepared to maximize his opportunity to make an indelible impression on the jazz world and indeed the larger audience for accessible though challenging and uniquely voiced instrumental music. This he did in a remarkable sucession of releases, starting with Monk's Dream and continuing through a sucession of brilliantly realized sessions with Columbia.
Thus, Monk's Dream is not only a great entre to Monk's music, but one of the all-time classic records in the history of jazz. By all means, not to be missed.
on November 11, 2003
Monk's first album for Columbia is a quartet session, as so many of them are, and featured what would be his steady band for a few years, with Rouse, Dunlop, and Ore. The highlight is the title song. Monk had such inventive names for his compositions, part of the fun is finding a way to correlate them to the music. "Monk's Dream" seems to me to have a distinctively dream-like quality, though I'm at a loss to describe it coherently with words. No matter. It's vintage Monk--strange, humorous, beautiful. Charlie Rouse's solo on "Bright Mississippi" may very well be the very best solo he's ever played--he begins, quite cleverly, by falling off the cliff of Monk's composition, and spends the rest of his solo climbing his way out and ascending. It's a shame then, that it's followed immediately by an extremely rare poor Monk solo--he seems quite lost and never catches fire. This album also has the wonderful tune "Bye-ya", and Monk's signature solo run-through of "Just a Gigolo".
on August 4, 2003
This was the first Thelonious Monk album I heard, and instantly I was a fan. Although Monk's Columbia recordings sometimes get a bad rap (did he sellout? was he merely repeating himself after being one of jazz's greatest innvovators?) "Monk's Dream" is probably the best introduction to the world of Monk's music imaginable. The music swings incredibly, and Monk's unique piano stylings stand out like borealis.
One of the most interesting things about Monk's piano playing is his ability to use dissonance to brighten things up. Typically dissonance is associated with dreary or melancholy music. Monk somehow turns dissonance against itself and brightens the music with tone clusters and notes almost impossible to decipher. This is true both in the solos as well as the themes of the songs. The dissonance goes by almost without being noticed, however, and you'll never think he's playing a wrong note. Monk opened up not only jazz but music in general to new sounds and concepts. If you think he can't play piano then you haven't tried playing any of his solos. In the world of music Monk is considered difficult not only physically but conceptually. This CD conatins rich music that will reward repeated listenings for years.
on January 26, 2003
I won't gush about how it's the best thing since sliced scrapple, but it's pretty stinking good. A well-recorded selection of Monk originals and covers, Charlie Rouse blowing the roof off, and the whole band moving like an elastic waistband make it a very listenable set. It's a happy record, really, unlike many jazz records; this band loves playing this music, and it really shows. It also features Rouse at the top of his game as Monk's foremost collaborator/interpreter on sax; at times, Rouse and Monk seem almost telephathic. If you haven't heard Monk on record, make no mistake: like all Monk records, this isn't your grandpa's dance music. But it's one of Monk's most accessible sessions in that all the tunes are both inventive and 'right on,' and unlike most other Monk records, it's a happy swinger throughout, or at least as much as that is true of any Monk record. The band takes its chances, but they all seem to pay off. There are no clunkers here.
Jazz nazis (if it takes one to know one, fine; I used to be one) will sneer that it isn't odd or inaccessible enough to be a classic, but that doesn't mean you have to miss this enjoyable record. If Monk's music is a language all its own, then this is one of his better conversations.
on March 19, 2003
There is a review posted earlier than mine which nails this CD's virtues: cheerful jazz, well-performed, nice balance between the piano and the saxophone. Not one of the 12 selections, although four are alternate takes of cuts included in the original 1963 LP, is a clunker. You get a little solo Monk, too, and a good dose of his quirkiness, but the majority of these 73 minutes are just plain fun. This recently repackaged and remastered version has a nice booklet as well, with a few really good photos of Thelonious. Charlie Rouse on sax is a revelation, but don't forget Monk recruited him, created most of the songs, and gave him the freedom to do his own thing within the initial framework of each tune. At this price, the CD is quite a bargain. It is hard to imagine getting tired of this album. More likely, you'll wish you had time to play it twice straight through.
on February 14, 2004
Monk's work with this quartet is so fluid and tight. These guys were really working off the same page. Monk's playing here is innovative and very upbeat. Just listen to what he did with Body and Soul. His version is one of the most unusual yet musically satisfying renditions I've ever heard. Monk's compositions are unbelievably cool and he found the perfect group of musicians to bring his musical vision to reality with Charlie Rouse John Ore and Frank Dunlop. This is highly entertaining jazz and swings throughout.
on March 14, 2004
This is possibly the BEST Jazz record I can honestly say I've EVER heard! I would have to say "Love Supreme" by Coltrane and "Time Out" by Brubeck are two of my other favs. This record is SUPREME however, The musicianship here is ULTRA tight and keeps ya comin back for more and more listens until you are so hooked that you listen to it ALL the time! Ok, ok, so I can't really pick a BEST record of ALL time but this is up there with "Love Supreme" and "Time Out".
on April 25, 2003
It's clear that Monk's music is appear to be written for saxophone players: Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane and, of course, Charlie Rouse were among his partners. But his last quartet with Rouse is very close like a Jazz Quartet should be. Rouse understanding of Monk's music is very important to play it with freedom and every tune is this title has it. Special mention to Bye Ya. The joy of listen Monk and Rouse together is here.