As part of the Riverside Profile series, which includes the same ubiquitous sampler disc with each Profile (a major disappointment), Concord has included a best-of collection of Thelonious Monk’s tenure with their label. The Monk tracks included here range from 1955-1958. They range from two solo pieces-Blue Monk from his Alone in San Francisco LP and Round Midnight from Thelonious Himself – to a single trio session with Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clarke. The balance of the seven numbers includes horns and are Monk staples.
Highlights include Epistrophy from the Monk session with Coltrane, which along with Coltrane has the unbeatable front line of Ray Copeland, Gigi Gryce, and Coleman Hawkins. That same session produced the gorgeous rendition of Ruby My Dear, this time with Coltrane being the only horn. Just as special is the Brilliant Corners issue of Pannonica, that brought together the under-recorded Ernie Henry on alto along with Sonny Rollins and the dream rhythm section of Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach.
Johnny Griffin gets lead billing on Nutty and Rhythm-A-Ning and makes the most of his bop solos. The longest track on the CD at 11:24, Well, You Needn‚t, brings back the Copeland, Gryce, Coltrane, and Hawkins group and they make this typically off key Monk standard shine. This Monk Profile even includes Off Minor, from Monk’s controversial Town Hall big band session of 1959 for which the expectation never exceeded the hype of what the super band assembled was thought to bring to the table.
You can’t really fault Concord Records for milking their purchase of the Fantasy stable of labels in putting together the Riverside Profile Series. However, I would recommend the purchase of these individual Riverside Profiles only to newcomers to jazz, who need to set up a quick jazz learning curve, a primer of sorts. For these jazz novices, this series can help open up the jewel box of 1950s jazz masters. It’s just a shame that Concord did not include a separate bonus disc with different tracks for each of the Riverside Profile series as they did last year in their Prestige Profile series. That series sold well and would have justified the same handling of their Riverside roster of artists in this latest series. For that reason, I’d downgrade their latest venture in compilations a notch.
I’d also have to say that the remastering of the Monk Riverside Profile is not a dramatic improvement over prior issues of the individual albums, and certainly does not compare to the K2 20-bit remastering done back in 2001 when Brilliant Corners and Monk’s Music were reissued in pristine sound by sound engineer,Tamaki Beck, for JVC Studios.
TrackList: Epistrophy, Rhythm-A-Ning, Pannonica, It Don‚t Mean a Thing, Blue Monk, Off Minor, Ruby, My Dear, Nutty, Well You Needn‚t, Round Midnight
– Jeff Krow