Top Artists – Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk – Underground

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  • An incredible copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Charlie Rouse – featured on many of the tracks here – is particularly wonderful on sax. His saxophone is full-bodied and natural with breathy texture and just the right amount of honk
  • So many copies just sound like an old jazz record, but this one lets you feel like you are right there as the music happens
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The instantly recognizable stride piano lines are delivered with the same urgency and precision that they possessed over two decades earlier…”

This is an outstanding Monk album from 1968. Thanks to Columbia’s state of the art engineering — still using tubes I’d wager, based on the sound – the recording really comes to life, or at least it does on a copy that sounds as good as this one does.

Monk’s piano comes through with powerful dynamics and real weight to the keys.

So many copies just sound like an old jazz record, but this one lets you feel like you are right there as the music happens. What more could you ask for?

Unlike a lot of Columbia jazz records, both the 360 originals and the early Red Label reissues can sound good on this title (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Straight, No Chaser

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  • This early 360 Stereo Columbia pressing boasts stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear just how good Monk’s big, rich piano sounds, this copy can show you like nothing by Monk you’ve heard
  • Four Stars in Allmusic, with Teo Macero producing and top Columbia engineering to ensure audiophile standard sonics
  • “Thelonious Monk’s Straight, No Chaser is the pinnacle of his recordings for Columbia Records…” — TheAudioBeat.com

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Thelonious Monk – Criss-Cross

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  • This wonderful pressing of Thelonious Monk’s second studio album has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Columbia records produced by Teo Macero in the early ’60s have consistently open, natural sound – this one from ’63 is no exception
  • The piano sounds amazing here — natural and dynamic, letting Monk’s passionate playing shine
  • 4 stars: “Thelonious Monk’s second album for Columbia Records features some of the finest work that Monk ever did in the studio with his ’60s trio and quartet … This is prime Monk for any degree of listener.”

I wish more Blue Note records had this kind of sound — natural, full-bodied, and sweet up top. The bass here is well-defined with real weight and lots of punch. Monk’s piano sounds correct from the highest notes all the way down to the lower register, and the sax sounds tonally right on the money. The clarity and transparency are superb throughout. (more…)

Thelonious Monk ‎– Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington on OJC

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Some OJC Pressings Sound Good, Some Don’t – This One Doesn’t

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Monk.

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  • This wonderful Black Print 360 Columbia pressing impressed us, earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or better on both sides and playing about as quietly as any stereo original we’ve found
  • Columbia records produced by Teo Macero in the early ’60s have consistently open, natural sound – this one from 1964 is no exception
  • The piano has real weight, the bass definition is wonderful, Rouse’s sax is full-bodied, and the overall sound is Columbia to a “T”: warm, sweet, and rich
  • The Thelonious Monk Quartet of 1964 is well featured on this excellent set… Easily recommended to Monk fans, this set is just further proof that he never made an unworthy recording.”

*The last track on this side gets a little crackly and plays Mint Minus Minus to EX++.

We’re big Monk fans here at Better Records and we wish we could get more records like this up on the site. Unfortunately, clean, vintage pressings of Monk’s music have become increasingly difficult to find, and even when you can track them down, they rarely play as quietly as this one, and of course, this being a Hot Stamper, they rarely sound as good as this one. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – It’s Monk’s Time – Getting the Balance Right

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More It’s Monk’s Time

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of It’s Monk’s Time.

There are three main elements that comprise the sound of It’s Monk’s Time: piano, sax and drums. You need all three to be balanced and correct. The mix is perfection on the best copies, with the piano, sax and drums clearly audible and in musically correct proportion to each other. 

As we played the sides we noted how each of them fared.

PIANO. Clear, present and lively. Very high-rez.

SAX. Smooth, rich and tubey, with no RVG squawk to be found.

DRUMS (and BASS). Big drums in a big room. Listen to how solid that kick is. The standup bass is tight and note-like.

Surprisingly side two sounded just like side one. We could find no fault with it. It doesn’t happen very often but it happened on this copy. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Big Band and Quartet – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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More Big Band and Quartet

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

An amazingly well-recorded Big Band Concert from 1963, and these White Hot sides make the case like nothing you have ever heard. Our early pressing here is so rich, Tubey Magical, spacious and lively we simply could not fault the sound. Monk alternates between a 10 piece Big Band and his standard quartet, with magical results. 

Normally our notes for the sound of the records we are comparing in our shootout fall into two categories: what the record is doing right and what the record is doing wrong. In this case there was nothing wrong about the sound to write about.

I could have tried to pick some nits, but when a record is so clearly superior to its competition, what’s the point? (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Monk. – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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More Monk.

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

Both sides of this copy have STUNNINGLY GOOD SOUND! We were absolutely FLOORED by how natural and lifelike this record sounded. The piano has real weight, the bass definition is wonderful, the brass is full-bodied, and the overall sound is warm, sweet, and rich. I would be SHOCKED if there’s a copy out there that could beat this one — it’s a monster. 

We’re big Monk fans here at Better Records and we wish we could get more records like this up on the site. Unfortunately, clean Monk pressings have become incredibly difficult to find — and even when you can track them down, they sure don’t usually sound like this! (more…)

Thelonious Monk – In Person

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In Person

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  • In Person makes its Hot Stamper debut with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on all four sides
  • Unusually rich, full-bodied, lively and present sound which brings out the best in this music
  • Features incomparable jazz greats Donald Byrd and Joe Gordon
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The first half of In Person contains the pianist/composer’s famous Town Hall concert of 1959… The second half of this two-fer finds Monk leading a strong sextet with trumpeter Joe Gordon and tenors Rouse and Harold Land live…”

The Riverside pressings we’ve auditioned of both The Thelonious Monk Orchestra – At Town Hall and Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two – At The Blackhawk were just awful sounding. The OJC reissues from the ’80s, although better, were not overflowing with the rich, natural, relaxed sound we were looking for either.

Ah, but a few years back we happened to drop the needle on one of these good Milestone Two-Fers. Here was the sound we were looking for and had had so little luck in finding.

Which prompts the question that should be on the mind of every audiophile: What are the rules for collecting records with the best sound quality?

The answer, of course, is that there are no such rules and never will be. There is only trial and error. Our full-time staff has been running trials — we call them shootouts and needle drops — for more than twenty years now, with far more errors than successes. Such is the nature of records. It may be a tautology to note that the average record has mediocre sound, but it nevertheless pays to keep the inconvenient fact in mind.

Even worse, if you make the mistake of pinning your audiophile hopes on a current reissue — and you have reasonably high standards and two working ears — your disappointment is almost guaranteed. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Monk’s Blues – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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More Monk’s Blues

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

WONDERFUL BIG BAND MUSIC, DEMO QUALITY SOUND, and QUIET VINYL! I wish more Blue Note records had this kind of sound — natural, full-bodied, and sweet up top. The bass here is well-defined with real weight and lots of punch. Monk’s piano sounds correct from the highest notes all the way down to the lower register, and the sax sounds JUST RIGHT — totally free of the “RVG squawk” we often hear on old Blue Notes. The clarity and transparency are superb throughout.   (more…)