Thelonious Monk Straight, No Chaser (1967)

Track selection: Locomotive (Monk)


Charlie Rouse (ts) Thelonious Monk (p) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (d) NYC, November 14 1966 – January 10 1967


Monks final quartet and sixth studio album, produced by Columbia’s Teo Macero, the man behind a lot of Miles Davis. This has to be Monk’s finest album, apart from all the others. The title track is best known among the DJ-tendancy, due to its “hard-drinking, cool bartending” attitude, but my preference is for the marvelous Locomotive, best known among recovering train spotters.  I can’t get the tune out of my head (apologies to Kylie). Charlie Rouse is totally in sync with Monk’s thinking, and offers up some of his best playing, sometimes angular echoing Monk, but with nifty figures in a warm rounded tone. The whole album is very rhythmic and hard-swinging.

Vinyl:  BPG 63009 UK mono from 1967, rough-texture orange label.

No doubt there is a Columbia 32-eye or whatever closer to the original but  this has an exceptionally nice, well-behaved mono delivery, with good dynamic range and punch. No argument about stereo positioning, nothing to interfere with the enjoyment of arguably Monk’s best studio recording. Or did I write that about one of his previous recordings?

Looks to me, from the matrix house style, like EMI pressing, though I couldn’t find any direct attribution. Invite any further information, even ill-informed guesswork like mine

Collectors Corner

Source: eBay, UK                                                                                                    Sellers Grading: Vinyl EX, Sleeve EX-, “UK original, textured label, laminated sleeve”

Ah, that sleeve is a real bonus. Laminated quality, the unique 60’s lustre does it for me every time. Why can’t they make covers like this today? Great design, all things considered, approved by the “Campaign against Wearing Unsuitable Hats on Record Covers” (Classified as “hat barely visible”, though a warning notice is served on the pictures accompanying the liner notes, especially Solo Monk’s  flying helmet and goggles)

After several eBay auctions with eye-popping prices, it’s nice to play catch up with classic records at a sensible cost, Moscow and Tokyo obviously preoccupied with bigger fish.


4 thoughts on “Thelonious Monk Straight, No Chaser (1967)

  1. Manmatty, you’re right, and on CHASER Japanese Folk Song is, I believe, less than half the length it is on the CD reissue. Even so, I’m not convinced that more isn’t sometimes…less.

    LJC — your post made me drag thiss off the shelf and play it and it is of course great. Whether mine is an original is doubtful — I suspect it is a slightly later second or third pressing…. Who cares? The wax crayon legend on the back cover of my copy indicates that a John Shelton was given or bought it on Christmas Eve 1970. It all adds to the listening experience. Whoever and wherever Mr Shelton is I always think of him on Christmas Eve 1970 as he prepared to plunge into Monk’s latest LP and return to it again and again over the Christmas holiday…

  2. I love this Monk album and I’ve played it to the hilt. I, as always, own it on CD and as is the case with the Charles Mingus Ah Um reissue on Sony’s Legacy series, this reissue, too, contains all the album tracks in their original, unedited length. Check.

    I mean, if you read the booklet of either Mingus Ah Um or Straight No Chaser, you’ll be amazed and maybe even be shocked a bit to learn that here and there complete solos were edited out of the album tracks. (I reckon it was to make sure that the full program would fit on one LP.)

    Granted, I don’t have Ah Um or …Chaser on LP, so I can’t compare the two versions, but I have to say it: if you dig the music presented on both these gems, then you simply have to have them on CD, simply ’cause you finally get to hear the other great solos from the other personnel, that were omitted from the LP. 😉

  3. Great track and great cover. Do graphic designers and illustrators work for publishers any more? Seems they usually get the work experience lad to download a generic photo and whack it on the front of their ‘product’, which at least keeps the accounts department happy.

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