"It's Monk's Time"—Speakers Corner Reissues Columbia Records Monk Classic
While it's true that Monk's glory days were behind him and his albums on Blue Note and Riverside present Monk at maximum creative power, the albums he later recorded for Columbia were still nothing short of sensational and featured superb Columbia 30th Street Studios sonics. Plus it can be argued that in tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, Monk had the perfect foil for his musical antics and over the top rhythmic agility.
Now we have this album and from IMPEX Monk's Dream. Prayers answered!
Monk's Dream, his first for Columbia issued in 1963 featured what was unquestionably his best quartet. This one from 1964 features a new rhythm section of Ben Riley on drums and Butch Warren on bass, along with Rouse, and if you hear this one first you'll wonder how it could get any better.
Even though this was issued but a year after his debut, Columbia issued four albums between his first and this one for the label. One was a studio album—and a great one— Criss-Cross that I hope someone reissues soon, while the others were live recordings.
This one contains six tunes—three originals and three covers of standards. One of the originals the album closing "Shuffle Boil" is simply a rehashing of a Monk standard but whatever Monk plays on record tends to be worthy as this one is.
The recording is somewhat hard right/left, particularly the opener "Lulu's Back In Town" where Monk's set up on the left channel and opens with a long solo that will have you thinking maybe somethings wrong with your right channel. But once everyone joins in, Rouse and Warren are center stage and Riley is on the right (stage-left). There's a nice amount of 30th street ambience to fill in the blanks.
This is as close as jazz comes to rock'n'roll in my opinion: it's muscular, straight to the point (within the bounds of Monk's rhythmic madness/genius) and gets the toe tapping and the blood flowing. I don't think jazz offers more fun listening than Monk.
Speakers Corner's reissue is a bit sharper than the original black "360 Sound" original (SC uses the later white "360 sound" label) and Willem Makkee's cut is a bit hotter and on side two goes out almost to the label, but the Pallas vinyl is super-quiet and transients are commendably fast and clean without sounding strident.
The original is a bit more relaxed and spacious but which sounds better would be system dependent. A very nice job and for Monk fans and those wanting a way in, easy to recommend. (There's also a $15.00 "Columbia" reissue but I bet it's cut from a digital source).