Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington in 1955

More Thelonious Monk

More Plays Duke Ellington

xxxxx

  • Monk’s brilliant interpretations of Duke Ellington classics come to life with Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides of this wonderful mono LP
  • Clear and open, with rock-solid bass and a present, full-bodied piano, this copy delivers 1955 piano trio magic in spades
  • One of our favorites by Monk, this album includes 8 Ellington classics such as “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Mood Indigo” and quite a few more
  • 4 stars: “The delicacy and inherently intricate melodies that Duke Ellington is best known for are perfectly matched to Monk’s angular and progressive interpretations.” 

This album was originally released on Riverside in 1955, and was the first 12 inch disc the label chose to put out, in mono of course. As we all know, a mono recording only sounds right in mono. And this copy sounds very right indeed.

This copy has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that most modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio, this is the record for you. It’s what good Analog is known for — this sound.

What is lost in these newly remastered Heavy Vinyl recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY. And the loss of transparency in a recording is practically the kiss of death.

We were impressed with the fact that the specific reissue we are offering here excelled in so many areas of reproduction. What was odd about it — odd to most audiophiles but not necessarily to us — was just how rich and Tubey Magical the reissue can be on some copies.

This leads me to think that most of the natural, full-bodied, lively, clear, rich sound of the album is on the tape, and that all one has to do to get that vintage sound on to a record is simply to thread up the tape on the right machine and hit play.

What both sides of this pressing have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1955
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments of this stellar jazz trio having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the club

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we describe above, and for that you will need to take this copy of the record home and throw it on your table.

Original Vs. Reissue

The original Riverside pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth.

Some of you may have discovered that many original records on Riverside are mostly awful sounding, so we are not the least bit worried that this reissue won’t beat the pants off of the original, any other reissue you may have, and of course any Heavy Vinyl pressing produced by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
Sophisticated Lady
I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good
Black And Tan Fantasy

Side Two

Mood Indigo
I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
Solitude
Caravan

AMG 4 Star Review

Thelonious Monk (piano/arranger) began his illustrious relationship with Riverside Records on the pair of July 21 and 27, 1955, dates needed to complete the eight sides for Plays Duke Ellington (1955).

Monk commands a trio that also presents the talents of Oscar Pettiford (bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums) on all the tracks sans “Solitude,” which appropriately enough features an unaccompanied piano. The delicacy and inherently intricate melodies that Duke Ellington is best known for are perfectly matched to Monk’s angular and progressive interpretations.

The combo are comfortable behind the pianist who remains somewhat subdued, if not arguably tentative, during the opening of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” although by his solo, Monk eases into some nice give and take with a playful Pettiford, whose steady bounce undeniably congeals the unit’s sound.

Monk takes the refined grace of “Sophisticated Lady” into a virtually unsurpassed strata as his seemingly disjointed notes organically coalesce into a simply stunning, yet stark introduction, with Clarke’s understated backbeat allowing room for Monk to embellish and thoroughly adorn.

The dark optimism of “Black and Tan Fantasy” stands out as another perfect combination of music and musician. “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” is a fun little romp with Monk taking some tricky and rhythmically unanticipated side trips throughout his nimble and rollicking leads. “Caravan” is a gem as Clarke’s sinuous trapwork becomes a perfect foil for Pettiford’s buoyant basslines. It also reels in Monk’s animated keyboard antics. Plays Duke Ellington is a recommended title for all dimension of jazz enthusiast. However, Monk and Ellington aficionados may rate it slightly higher.