Track Selection: ” ‘Round about Midnight ”
Gerry Mulligan (bars) Thelonious Monk (p) Wilbur Ware (b) Shadow Wilson (d) NYC, August 13, 1957
An improbable combination: master of the baritone sax Gerry Mulligan and iconoclast of the “off-key” piano Thelonious Monk, resulting in beautifully crafted artistry. Recorded in 1957 for Riverside, first released here in the UK on London American the same year, it’s a one-of-a-kind piece. I had a VG copy for a while, but replaced it recently with a better copy, though not without the occasional click itself.
Some records are near mint for the reason that they are not worth the effort of playing a second time. Both these copies showed frequent-play spindle marks, indicating a recording that demanded to be played, again and again. A problem of success.
The standout track is Monk’s much loved classic “‘Round about Midnight”. The melodic tension between the baritone and piano is remarkable. The dark and menacing theme is perfectly matched to the throaty lower register of the baritone as it climbs the discordant scaffolding of Monk’s chords, reaching upward for emotional release. The entry of the rhythm section lightens the mood with a swinging lilt, only for it to return in the end to the darkness. A spellbinding interpretation from two masters, showing how it can be done.
Vinyl: London LTZ-U 15127 UK release of Riverside REP 130