Monk & Sonny


Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins (Prestige) is somewhat mistitled because the principals play together on only three of its five selections. Even so, it reveals a relatively unheralded portrait of two modern jazz titans as they stretch into some of their first giant steps.

Monk & Sonny cobbles together two trio tracks, two quartet tracks, and an extended quintet jam. "Work" and "Nutty" strip down to a piano trio with bassist Percy Heath and drummer Art Blakey. Blakey and Monk obviously feast upon each other's energy and Monk opens each tune into solo space that the drummer quickly devours. Monk's chord progressions sound hilarious and brilliant on the quintet "Friday The 13th," which pulls in Rollins' tenor plus the cool round tones of Julius Watkins' French horn.

The Monk-Rollins foursome tees off on two standards. Monk's unique rhythmic and harmonic patterns seem to inspire Rollins, whose powerful barrages blow open "I Want To Be Happy" and "The Way You Look Tonight" like some big, bad tenor wolf. Both tunes sound like the excellent work that emerged from John Coltrane's partnership with Monk.

If you like these quartet pieces, this same band contributes "More Than You Know" to Rollins' Moving Out (Prestige, 1954). Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins was released in the RVG Remaster series in 2006 and is also available as a collectors' item with a limited-edition paper sleeve.