Interesting and enjoyable - not an essential album
Aug 20, 2013
Unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool Monk fan you may want to pass this one by. However, it is an enjoyable listen and comes across almost as though some big band decided to do a Monk tribute album. Seriously, that is exactly what I thought when I first heard it. And being the finicky snob that I am I dismissed it when I found out Monk was actually on it. I've since changed my stance.
The sound samples on this page reveal Monk's music, but played without the quirkiness of Monk. In fact, his own bassist and drummer - Larry Gales and John Riley - are in the ensemble. On some tracks Riley is replaced by John Guerin. I think one of the reasons why this album sounds different is the number of West Coast musicians who are in the ensemble. The other reason, of course, is Oliver Nelson's arrangements. Frankly, the more I listen to this album the more i enjoy it. I suppose I am mellowing in my old age and becoming less of a rigid purist - or the music was excellent all along and I was too stubborn or unyielding to acknowledge it.
All of the tracks were recorded for Columbia in Los Angeles over a two day period: November 19 and 20, 1968. The musicians on the album are trumpeters Bobby Bryant, Conte Candoli and Freddie Hill, with trombonists Lou Blackburn, Bob Bralinger, Billy Byers, and Mike Wimberley completing the brass section. Saxophone and reeds were Ernie Small, Gene Cipriano, Buddy Collette, and Tom Scott. The rhythm section is Monk backed by Howard Roberts on guitar, with his own Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums.
Personally I think this album will weather the test of time. On the other hand I can fully understand the reticence of some purists who still eschew it. If you give it a chance you may actually start enjoying it - it took me a long time to even admit to owing a copy and here I am reviewing it.