TONE Audio asked me for a list of albums that initially hooked me on jazz. During the next few weeks, I’m going to share 10 yesteryear titles that I always recommend, and frequently return to.
Thelonious Monk Always Know Columbia
This is what happens when an insightful zealot curates an oceanic oeuvre. The iconic pianist-composer wrote 70 or so tunes (please don’t overlook “Humph”) and delivered them in innumerable performances. NRBQ wizard Terry Adams, who caught Monk live numerous times and interacted with him as well, hit the Columbia vaults in 1979, pulling must-hear tracks and previously unissued performances that are both riveting and revelatory. One of jazz’s most singular personalities, Monk was a man of many moods. Adams has a knack for sharing joy, and there’s elation galore in these romps through “Criss Cross,” “Played Twice,” and “Bye-Ya.” Mechanically, that often means the swing is overt. “Epistrophy” and “Shuffle Boil” hurdle forward with a locomotive thrust. “Easy Street” ambles with an aw-shucks elegance. Whether soloing or comping, the leader’s keyboard choices are inspired and awesome, and at the bow of the good ship Monk, saxophonist Charlie Rouse makes his mark with commanding declaration after commanding declaration. The various rhythm sections fire on all cylinders, the crackle of their connection unmistakable. There are debates that pit the maestro’s Riverside work against his Columbia output. Forget that squawk. Both were exquisite, and this two-LP set is a righteous slice of the genius if there ever was one.