Thelonius Monk ‘Monk’s Music’ (Original Jazz Classics/Universal) 5/5

Monk was a mature forty-year old musician by the time this classic recording was made in 1957 and one might have expected a faithful, yet unspectacular revisiting of compositions, some of which were written a decade earlier. Nothing could be further from the truth. Part of the reason lies in the wonderful line up of musicians including John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins on tenor saxophones and Art Blakey on drums, not to mention the much underrated Ray Copeland on trumpet. Another factor may be that Coltrane was entering into a new phase of his career with ‘Blue Train’ recorded around the same time. However, unquestionably something special happened in the studio for these magical sessions and fortunately we have it for posterity with on this new re-edition. Well known pieces such as ‘Off minor’, ‘Epistrophy’ and ‘Ruby my dear’ receive loving treatments that breath new life into them. A then new composition was added, ‘Crepuscule with Nellie’, which sounds as fresh now as on the day it was first performed. Of the bonus tracks, by far the most significant is the thirteen and half minute ‘Blues for tomorrow’ with an extended solo from Copeland and a definite big band feel with the brass working in unison in the intro. It can only have been the time factor, which prevented this superb slice of jazz from featuring on the original album. Informative new sleeve notes courtesy of jazz writer Ashley Kahn.

Tim Stenhouse