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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chillin' Out with Thelonious Monk and Some Grand Ape Weed

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 1:08 PM


Listen to this while high: Thelonious Alone In San Francisco


Behind the buzz: Recorded at Fugazi Hall in late 1959, this followup to  Thelonious Alone finds the jazz great solo at the keyboard again. Bop jazzbos probably make too much of Monk's eccentricities, but few musicians attracted as many first-rate collaborators. The second of three Monk solo LPs, this excursion is now re-released by Bay Area label Fantasy Records.

Today's weed: Grand Ape, a malodorous hybrid cousin to last week's Grape Ape.

Blue Monk: There's a certain whimsical swagger in the maestro's playing, and this run at the self-penned classic "Blue Monk" recalls the ragtime and stride blues greats resident in Harlem during the composer's youth. The mood of the song crumbles elegantly, with the sighing figure at the end giving an O. Henry-style twist later appropriated by the likes of Randy Newman to express nihilistic regret. "Ruby My Dear" is another moody exploration of familiar territory, as this time Monk does the miracle of knitting a single fragile romantic interior reverie out of adroit playing and the warmth of Fugazi Hall's acoustics. "Round Lights" is another Monk original, a sly meditation such as a tosspot might have on the noise and merry lights of a much-loved bar. "Everything Happens to Me" brings the melancholia back to a noble composition pounded into kitsch by Ol' Blue Eyes and Tommy Dorsey, and "You Took the Words Right Out of My Heart" similarly ennobles the Benny Goodman standard. Monk originals like "Pannonica" and "Bluehawk" leave their own tender residues in the mind's ear before Monk's version of Irving Berlin's oft-covered "Remember" and a thrilling pass at "There's Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie," which was made famous in the Twenties by none other than Harry "Puttin' on the Ritz" Richman. "Reflections" comes as a summation as the single hit taken of Grand Ape wears off and Monk returns to the same playful mood that began the disc. The sole bonus track,Take 1 of "Cherie", lets us down only slightly.

Psychoactive verdict:

Thirty marijuana minutes inside the cunning brain and tender heart of Monk are a

universe entire. Go for it.

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