Thelonious Monk Monk’s Music (1957) Riverside

Track Selection: Well, You Needn’t (Coltrane takes the first solo)


Thelonious Monk (p); Ray Copeland (t) Gigi Gryce (as) John Coltrane (ts) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Wilbur Ware (b) Art Blakey (d) recorded Reeves Sound Studios, NYC, June 25 & 26, 1957, engineer Jack Higgins


“You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?” (T Monk)

An album by Thelonious Monk Septet from 1957 that had been missing from my collection for a long time. Coltrane joined Monk after a spell with the Miles Davis Quintet, and this is Coltrane’s only studio recording with Monk, who can be heard enthusiastically calling on him to take the first solo on the selection “Well, You Needn’t” (selection) however Coltrane’s name does not make it to the front cover with Hawkins and Gryce.

For connoisseurs of such things (Tony!) apparently the two mixes of this album (stereo and mono) are notable in that they used entirely different setups of microphones, recording the same performances. The stereo mix was recorded using mics at a greater distance from the band, and therefore has a distinctly different sound from the mono mix.

Inside story of the recording session ( abridged and plagiarised by LJC)

“Monk, unusually, arrived on time, but was distracted with worry about his wife, Nellie, who was in hospital. Art Blakey arrived an hour late and then had to assemble and mic up his kit. The band had difficulty following Monk’s directions, leading Monk to exclaim to tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane, “You’re the great Coleman Hawkins, right? You’re the guy who invented the tenor saxophone, right? You’re the great John Coltrane, right? Well, the music is in the horn. Between the two of you, you should be able to find it.” Eventually, towards the due end of the session, Monk threw in the towel and went home. Happily, a second session the next day went resoundingly well, producing the remaining tracks

Monk’s horns-rich arrangements, and the quality of the soloists to hand, has made Monk’s Music a well-loved and important part of Monk’s canon. Compositionally, however, it marked time.  It followed the 1956 Brilliant Corners on which Monk led a quintet/septet on mostly freshly composed material. Most of the tunes on Monk’s Music would have been familiar to the assembled musicians, who were thrown on the first day of the session by new and tricky arrangements and, very likely, by Monk’s distracted mood”

LJC says:

They say, if you want to get ahead, get a hat. A bonus with each Monk album is his ever-changing collection of hats: on Monks Music, a stylish tartan cheese-cutter. LJC takes the advice, but doesn’t quite pull it off. Monk shows how it’s done with the right attitude:

Vinyl UK Riverside 12-242 mono

Very early white label with sunken central area – . Mecolico import stamp, however the record is “Produced in England”, so why the imported stamp I don’t know. Perhaps someone does. I am not sure Monk looks entirely comfortable posed sitting in a trolley without any obvious purpose, but the photographer and stylist get their credits on the cover, even if Coltrane didn’t.

The Matrix: Hand inscribed matrix number common to a number of UK Riverside, not obviously the work of either Philips or Decca, both of whom pressed Riversides for a time.

Collectors Corner

Source: London record store, part of a recently purchased collection that didn’t even  make it to the new arrivals shelf. LJC was there first. This collecting business is sometimes way too spooky. By a strange coincidence I had chased and lost lesser copies this record  twice on eBay in the preceding weeks.

A copy of the US original currently on ebay is asking an astonishing $199 opening bid in VG MINUS condition.I will leave you to decide if it is worth it.

5 thoughts on “Thelonious Monk Monk’s Music (1957) Riverside

  1. I really like this one – at times, ragged and loose, but a great lineup and good stereo sound. It sounds excellent over loudspeakers. Horns playing the opening hymn is pretty special. A friend told me Coltrane fell asleep during “Well You Needn’t” and almost missed his break, hence the shouting from Monk. I haven’t verified that but it adds to the mystique.

  2. ‘Monk’s Music’ has got to be one of the best early stereo jazz recordings. It is really neat to hear Hawkins and Coltrane playing on the same album.

    • Too kind Martin, too kind. I was just thinking, we need a new Assistant Vice-President for Marketing and External Affairs, and you seem just the right man for the job. But with City Hall budget cuts imminent, it might be a while. Don’t give up the day job just yet.

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