Tuesday, March 20, 2018
Thelonious Monk - 1967  "Straight, No Chaser"
Straight, No Chaser is undeniably one of those classics, and finds Monk in the good company of his long-time companions--Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales, and Ben Riley.
For this CD, reissue producer Orrin Keepnews has added approximately 25 minutes of never-before-heard Monk, meticulously re-editing lost portions of issued titles while discovering two complete, previously unissued performances.
This is the sixth studio album cut by Thelonious Monk under the production/direction of Teo Macero for Columbia and as such should not be confused with the original motion picture soundtrack to the 1988 film of the same name. The band featured here includes: Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Ben Riley (drums), and Larry Gales (bass). This would be the final quartet Monk would assemble to record with in the studio. While far from being somber, this unit retained a mature flavor which would likewise place Monk's solos in a completely new context. At times, this adaptation presents itself more subtly than others. For instance, Monk's extended solo in "Locomotive" never reaches beyond itself due in part to the tempo-laden rhythm section. The contrast of styles, however, appreciates the caliber of this particular solo, including an obvious assertion by Monk which leads the band, albeit temporarily, into playing double-time. Other recommended quartet selections on this disc include a liberated version of the title track, which highlights some stellar interaction between Monk and Rouse. The same can be said for "We See," which features the hardest bop on the album. In addition to the quartet sides, Straight, No Chaser contains two unaccompanied piano solos: "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" and "This Is My Story, This Is My Song." [The original disc only included six performances, half of which were edited due to the stringent time constraints of vinyl; subsequent reissues not only restored all of the previously abridged performances, but also added a trio of sides, two of which ("I Didn't Know About You: Take 1" and "Green Chimneys") are issued here for the first time.]
"Straight, No Chaser" was released on Columbia Records in 1967. What amazes me about Monk besides his brilliant musicianship was the fact that he wasn't the person the media made him out to be. He was in fact a genuine, hard-working artist trying to make ends meet. He was also a family man. Miles Davis, who had a feud with Monk during the 50s and 60s, wrote in his autobiography that Monk was "a sweet guy." Don't let the "image" of a reclusive, drug-addict, and eccentric tunnel dweller scare you away from his music, because he wasn't like that at all.
This recording contains some of Monk's best performances and sidemen: Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Larry Gales on bass, Ben Riley on drums, and, of course, Monk on piano. This in my opinion was his best group. Each of the musicians had an understanding of Monk's compositions better than any other musicians he's played with before. Charlie Rouse is the perfect foil to Monk. Rouse has a warm sound and is also technically amazing. You have to be gifted to play Monk's compositions. Though many of the melodies to his tunes seem simple, it's what the harmony is doing that confused people. Even John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins had trouble playing his tunes. In fact, Sonny Rollins had such difficulty with "Brilliant Corners" that the producer had to edit together three seperate tracks and Coltrane has said that he gets "lost" when he's playing some of Monk's tunes. I find this really incredible because both Rollins and Coltrane can play over just about any chord changes thrown at them. I guess my question is how did Rouse become such a walking encylopedia of Monk? Was it long practice sessions? Was it Monk explaining everything in detail to Rouse? Could be, but I think what it was is Rouse's empathy for Monk and his compositions. This is what kept Rollins and Coltrane from really understanding the inner-workings of these pieces. Rouse was indeed an amazing Monk sideman. The bass player, Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley also play an crucial role in Monk's music. They are the backbone of this quartet and they provide such a great support system.
"Straight, No Chaser" is a classic bebop jazz album and should appeal to fans of this type of jazz music. Every song is a world within itself and should inspire all who are willing to listen. Highly recommended.
1. "Locomotive" (Th. Monk) - 6:40
2. "I Didn't Know About You" (Duke Ellington) - 6:52
3. "Straight, No Chaser" (Th. Monk) - 11:28
4. "Japanese Folk Song (Kōjō no Tsuki)" (Rentarō Taki) - 16:42
5. "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" (Harold Arlen) - 7:36
6. "We See" (Th. Monk) - 11:37
Bonus tracks on CD reissue
7. "This Is My Story, This Is My Song" (Phoebe Knapp) - 1:42 (better known by the title "Blessed Assurance")
8. "I Didn't Know About You" (D. Ellington) - 6:49
9. "Green Chimneys" (Th. Monk) - 6:34
Thelonious Monk - piano
Charlie Rouse - tenor sax
Larry Gales - bass
Ben Riley - drums
Posted by Crimhead420 at 7:22 PM