Thelonious Monk... Where to start?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Guardian, Mar 28, 2010.

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  1. Guardian

    Guardian Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I have heard this guy is good and want to check him out. Where do you suggest I begin? Mind you I'm not a total jazz head and dont delve into the genre very much so what would be a good start for me?
  2. 93curr

    93curr Senior Member

    any of these would be ideal starting points:

    Straight No Chaser
    Brilliant Corners
    Genius Of Modern Music
    The Unique Thelonious Monk
    Monk In France
  3. john greenwood

    john greenwood Senior Member

    Brilliant Corners and Monk's Music would be good starting points. He made a lot of good music.
  4. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker member number 666

    Northern VA, USA
    How can you go wrong with Monk?
  5. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Senior Member

    You heard right. The guy was totally unique. Try "The Composer" on Columbia for starters.
  6. art

    art Forum Resident

    I got Monked on Monk's Dream. I thought that a good starting point 'cause it was his first shot into the mainstream, and it's fairly accessible for a Monk record.
  7. lschwart

    lschwart Senior Member

    Richmond, VA
    My first experience of Monk was "Criss Cross" and the Monk side of the old "Miles and Monk at Newport" LP. Hard to go wrong with the most of the Riverside or Columbia titles. My recommendations would be any of the following:

    "Monk's Music"
    "Brilliant Corners"
    "5 x 5 x Monk"
    "Thelonious Himself" (solo)
    "Thelonious Alone in San Francisco" (solo)
    "Criss Cross"
    "Straight, No Chaser"

  8. il pleut

    il pleut New Member

    monk's music is a good starting place- a good recording (audio-wise) and some of monk's most famous compositions with an stellar group of musicians.

    also the monk trio cd on prestige is great, with blue monk and little rootie tootie among others.
  9. Manos

    Manos Forum Resident

    Ann Arbor, MI, USA
    If you don't mind a live recording, I would suggest Thelonious Monk's Live at the "It" Club, a 2-disc set released in 1998. It's actually an expanded reissue of an edited set released sixteen years earlier. This set taught me to appreciate live jazz recordings, with great chemistry among the musicians and a nice crowd ambiance.

    Gary_Stewart likes this.
  10. johnnypaddock

    johnnypaddock Senior Member

    Merrimack Valley
    I think that the "Live At Carnegie Hall" album with John Coltrane is incredible.
  11. mrt2

    mrt2 Active Member

    Milwaukee, WI, USA
  12. Norm Apter

    Norm Apter Well-Known Member In Memoriam

    Worcester, MA
    I would first go with the following (in this order):

    -- Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall (this is the one that hooked me on Monk)
    -- Monk's Dream
    -- Thelonious Monk Live at the It Club


    -- Its Monk's Time
    -- Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane: The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings (double-disc set that includes Monk's Music and w/John Coltrane for a great price; great sound quality too)
    -- Straight, No Chaser
    -- Thelonious Himself

    And then:

    -- Brilliant Corners
    -- Criss-cross

    (The latter two are great but I did not find them as easily accessible as some of the others I mentioned above).
    macdaddysinfo likes this.
  13. Ocean56

    Ocean56 Forum Resident

    Waterford, MI USA
    There's a Columbia release that's actually called 'Thelonious Monk's Greatest Hits'.

    IMHO, it makes a GREAT 1-disc start!
  14. Maggie

    Maggie funky but chic

    Toronto, Canada
    IMO this is the correct answer. It is 2CDs but priced as a single CD and sounds about as good as this music is going to sound.
  15. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    The first jazz album I ever bought was 1956's "Brilliant Corners." At first it confounded me, but it is now one of my favorite LPs ever. Even though some of the greatest musicians EVER played on it, you can tell that they had to work hard to keep up with Monk!

    His 1940s Blue Note recordings ("Genius of Modern Music" Vols. 1 & 2) are pretty fantastic too. They still sound pretty far out 60 years later.

    "Monk's Dream" is probably the easiest intro to Monk. By 1962, when it was recorded, his band was solidified, the songs on the album are among his best-known, and the engineers at Columbia really knew how to capture beautiful-sounding jazz recordings.
  16. RubenH

    RubenH Forum Resident

    S.E. United States

    True - I would add that it is incredibly well-recorded as well.
  17. Steve E.

    Steve E. Doc Wurly and Chief Lathe Troll

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    It should be noted that in most editions of Monk's Blue Note-era recordings, an important chunk of them end up as part of this parallel Milt Jackson album instead of as part of Vols 1 & 2:

    In the CD era, this album always contains a July 2, 1948 session featuring "Evidence," "Misterioso," "Epistrophy," "I Mean You," "All The Things You Are," and "I Should Care."

    This practice has been going on since the early 1950's....but each release switches around WHICH of the pieces end up here.

    See also:

    (much of the information on these pages is my attempt at sorting out the confusion.)

    A 2 CD compilation called "The Complete Genius" contains all of the Blue Note performances from these three discs.

    The more recent RVG remasterings of this material improve much of it, makes certain sessions sound worse (compared to a 1970 blue note LP, at least), and re-order the songs in a much more pleasing manner than the previous version.
  18. Steve E.

    Steve E. Doc Wurly and Chief Lathe Troll

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    I think you can't go wrong with most of the stuff he recorded for Riverside. That's probably my favorite period of his from an album production standpoint.

    It's easier to say which stuff to avoid 'til later if you have a choice: I don't care too much for his early 1950's Prestige recordings compared to the others. I can't say why. Harsh sound? Lesser performances? I dunno.
  19. JA Fant

    JA Fant Well-Known Member

    Straight No Chaser!
  20. 2nd. :thumbsup:
  21. ledsox

    ledsox Forum Resident

    San Diego, CA
    The hybrid SACD of Monk's Music is one of my fave jazz disc and I think a pretty good starting point.

    It sounds amazing as it's a wonderful 3 mic straight to tape recording and it's available for about $10. Tough to beat that!
  22. Randy W

    Randy W Original Member

    "Monk with Coltrane" has to be at the top of the list.


    "Monk's Music"
    "Brilliant Corners"
    "Thelonious Himself"
    "Thelonious Alone in San Francisco"
    "Straight, No Chaser"
  23. jdlaw

    jdlaw Forum Resident

    Does anyone have the vinyl of this title that they could comment on? Allready have the cd (which I really like) but was also considering the vinyl. Also, another title with Coltrane I like is 'live at the five spot discovery'. Sound quality is kinda ruff though.
  24. Mike B

    Mike B Forum Resident

    New York City

    Because it's all of his most famous and frequently covered original compositions, performed really well but in short versions. Most of everything he did afterwards is an expansion of this stuff. It's almost as if he conveniently made a "greatest hits" album at the beginning of his career.
  25. J.A.W.

    J.A.W. Music Addict

    Start with the Blue Note recordings, followed by the Prestige sessions, then the Riverside recordings and finally the Columbia, Vogue and Black Lion dates :)
    bicyclops likes this.
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