The Concord Music Group has been reissuing classic jazz albums via their Original Jazz Classics Remasters Series for several years. Three new titles are joining the stellar lineup of past releases: Moonbeams by The Bill Evans Trio, the famous Quintet Concert by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Max Roach, and Charlie Mingus, plus the subject of this review, Misterioso, by the Thelonious Monk Quartet.
As with all past releases, the sound of Misterioso has been enhanced with 24-bit remastering, which gives the music a startling clarity given its age and the limitations of recording equipment of the time period. There are also extensive liner notes, which give a history of the music contained on the album. Finally, three bonus tracks are included that stretch out to 28 minutes of additional music.
Today, Thelonious Monk is recognized as one of the prominent and most influential jazz pianists and musicians of the 20th century. While he recorded for a number of labels during his lifetime, it was his time with the Riverside label, 1955-1961, that provided many of the centerpiece albums of his career.
During June of 1958, Thelonious Monk and his latest quartet, which included tenor saxophone player Johnny Griffin, drummer Roy Haynes, and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, pulled into the Five Spot Café in New York for Monk’s second residency at the venue. Two of the better live albums in jazz history were recorded during his time at the club. Both Misterioso and Thelonious In Action remain two of the better snapshots of his career.
Despite his odd melodies and use of dissonant notes and chords, he was a perfectionist. In live performances, Monk was always a treat as he was a little looser and relaxed. His improvisational skills always contained surprises and his ability to meld with other musicians of note gave many of his studio recordings new twists and textures.
Misterioso contained a number of tracks that had originated during the 1940s. “In Walked Bud” is a highlight of the release. It was a slightly dark but ultimately carefree tribute to Bud Powell. The Johnny Griffin sax solo is one for the ages and his presence on the album provided Monk with one of the better support musician performances of his long career. Griffin brought a blues foundation to his jazz playing, which combined well with Monk’s style. The title track was something that only Thelonious Monk could pull off, as it was both melodic and atonal. The opening “Nutty,” which sets the tone for the album, “Blues Five Spot,” and “Let’s Cool One” were all vehicles for Monk to play off the other musicians both individually and in unison.
The best of the bonus tracks was a version of “’Round Midnight,” which he presented in a mid-tempo style as opposed to Miles Davis later well-known rendition. It remains one of the better interpretations of one of his most famous compositions.
Misterioso is an album that requires multiple listens to even begin to appreciate and understand and then leaves you wanting more. It is a must for any jazz aficionado.