Thelonious Monk – Straight, No Chaser

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Side two of this 360 pressing from 1967 is nearly White Hot — what a recording! If you want to hear just how good Monk’s great big rich piano sounds, look no further. 

Rudy Van Gelder, eat your heart out. This is the piano sound Rudy never quite managed. Some say it’s the crappy workhorse piano he had set up in his studio. Others say it was just poorly miked. Rather than speculating on something we know little about (good pianos and the their miking) let’s just say that Columbia had the piano, the room and the mics to do it right as you can easily hear on this very record.

Side Two

Nearly White Hot and for good reason. Listen to Monk vocalizing — this copy is so resolving you can hear him clearly, yet the overall sound is warm, rich and smooth in the best Columbia tradition.

Speaking of warm, rich and smooth, this is important to the horn sound too. Most copies could not make the sax as full-bodied and free of honk as we would have liked. This one did, earning lots of points in the process. Hard to fault and definitely hard to beat.

Side One

Very clear but as we said above, finding all the fullness is the toughest job in the mastering and pressing of this album. Still, quite good and better than most.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Locomotive 
I Didn’t Know About You 
Straight, No Chaser

Side Two

Japanese Folk Song 
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea 
We See

AMG Review

This is the sixth studio album cut by Thelonious Monk under the production/direction of Teo Macero for Columbia and as such should not be confused with the original motion picture soundtrack to the 1988 film of the same name. The band featured here includes: Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Ben Riley (drums), and Larry Gales (bass). This would be the final quartet Monk would assemble to record with in the studio. While far from being somber, this unit retained a mature flavor which would likewise place Monk’s solos in a completely new context.

TheAudioBeat.com

Thelonious Monk’s Straight, No Chaser is the pinnacle of his recordings for Columbia Records. It was his eighth for the label, and there would be only two more official releases before Monk and Columbia parted ways.

By this point in 1967, he and his bandmates, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales, and drummer Ben Riley, had been playing together for a number of years and this showed in the near-telepathic way they played with and off each other. It also meant that they knew Monk’s music inside and out — no small feat — so they could improvise at will.

Much of this album was of older Monk tunes, the title coming from one of his most widely recorded and praised compositions. Not that that was a huge surprise as he tended to recycle his music over and over. But what would for almost anyone else have become tediously repetitious as the years rolled by, for Monk, the inveterate innovator, it managed to always sound fresh — as if he had written the tunes just for that particular session.

John Crossett, TheAudioBeat.com