04 JUL 12 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Thelonious Monk's bluesy Misterioso (Riverside/OJC) with tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, now in the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series, is precisely the type of music that people who call Monk's music knotty and impenetrable have in mind.
Monk's music brought the best out of the tenor players in his band (starting with Coltrane), but while some tenors (like Stan Getz) float on sound clouds, Griffin hews music out of hard, thick rock. Knowing, perhaps, that Griffin's foundation was bedrock, Monk's Misterioso lets the blues fly. His piano introduction sounds like a call for the rest of his quartet to come out and play at the "Blues Five Spot" -- and how Griffin plays, with extended unaccompanied breaks that bust up and piece back together "Blues Five Spot" and "Let's Cool One!"
Monk's childlike but deceptive solo "Just a Gigolo" paints an impressionist picture in most every imaginable (and tonally unimaginable) shade of blue, then seamlessly rocks into the counterpoint two-hand scales that build into "Misterioso." Three bonus tracks add nearly half an hour of new music, including Art Blakey's turn on drums for Roy Haynes in the closing medley of "Bye-Ya/Epistrophy," and the murky atmosphere of shadow and twilight that seems to only come creeping "'Round Midnight."
Misterioso is one of two classic Monk titles born from his storied 1958 quartet engagement at the Five Spot in New York City. Thelonious In Action (Riverside/OJC, 1992) is the other.