Thelonious Monk (piano; b. Oct. 10, 1917 - d. Feb. 17, 1982)
Yesterday was Thelonious Monk's birthday. Now if you have been reading this blog for awhile you know I've written about Monk on numerous occasions. He is one of my favourite artists of all-time. So I won't go into much detail today (you can read previous entries). Today I wanted to celebrate his birthday by discussing three great compilations that give a very complete overview of his genius.
The Essential Thelonious Monk (Columbia Records, 2CDs)
This technically covers the important works Monk recorded between '62 - '68. It also features some of Monk's finest groups (Charlie Rouse, Frank Dunlop, Butch Warren, Ben Riley) in phenomenal form. The collection includes live recordings, solo work and Monk's adventures into large ensembles. The Essential Thelonious Monk also includes versions of my favourite Monk pieces "Well You Needn't." and "Straight No Chaser". Monk was "on top of the world" at this point but also critically scrutinized. I guess that's part of genius and success. At this point Monk was on the cover of Time magazine and producing records of real quality and distinction (the aforementioned Criss Cross and It's Monk Time).
Many of you may already have one or two of these collections but for those who don't these three compilations would probably give you the best overview of Thelonious Monk you could have (outside of the individual albums and expensive boxed sets). But don't forget there are a treasure trove of live albums which highlight Monk's ability as entertainer, leader and great thinker that are worth seeking out. We have written about on the blog before as well. I hope that you get a chance to purchase any of the above records. You won't be disappointed. And here's to the live of one the great musicians ever. Happy Birthday Monk!