Misterioso (Thelonious Monk album)
|Live album by Thelonious Monk Quartet|
|Recorded||August 7, 1958; Five Spot Café, New York City|
|Thelonious Monk albums chronology|
Misterioso is a live album by American jazz ensemble the Thelonious Monk Quartet, released in 1959 by Riverside Records. Pianist and composer Thelonious Monk recorded the album on August 7, 1958, at the Five Spot Café in New York City with his new quartet, which featured drummer Roy Haynes, bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. It was his first successful live recording.
The album and its title track were titled as a reference to Monk's reputation at the time as an enigmatic, challenging musician. The album's cover art appropriates Giorgio de Chirico's 1915 painting The Seer. According to producer Orrin Keepnews, Monk played piano more vividly than on his studio recordings in response to the venue's enthusiastic crowd. Misterioso features four of his earlier compositions, which Monk reworked live.
In contemporary reviews of the album, music critics complimented Monk's performance, but were ambivalent towards Griffin, whose playing they felt was out of place with the quartet. Misterioso was remastered and reissued in 1989 and 2012 by Original Jazz Classics. Since its initial reception, the album has received retrospective acclaim from critics, who viewed Griffin's playing as a highlight.
After returning to the New York City club scene with his new quartet, pianist and composer Thelonious Monk began performing at the Five Spot Café in mid-1958. His quartet featured drummer Roy Haynes, bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. On August 7, they performed an evening show in the club's overcrowded room, which was set up with equipment to record a live album for Monk's label Riverside Records. He had tried to record there a month earlier, but rejected the show's results. The August 7 show was Monk's first successful live recording and also yielded his 1958 album Thelonious in Action.
According to Orrin Keepnews, who produced Misterioso, the album and its title track were titled as a mild play on the words "mist" and "mystery" to evoke the perception of Monk's music as enigmatic and challenging at the time. Jazz critic Neil Tesser said that the word, which is Latin for "in a mysterious manner", was "used most often as a musical direction in classical music scores. But by the time Monk's quartet recorded this music [in 1958] 'Misterioso' had largely come to identify Monk himself." The album's cover art is a reproduction of Giorgio de Chirico's 1915 painting The Seer and, according to musicologist Robert G. O'Meally, reflects "the mysterious violations of convention of perspective, the silences, and oddly attractive angles (the overall futuristic quality) in Monk's music."
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The songs played on Misterioso were arranged by Monk, who reworked four of his earlier compositions. Keepnews remarked on Monk's musicality in the album's liner notes: "[I]t should be axiomatic that Monk is a constantly self-renewing composer-arranger-musician, that each new recording of an 'old' number, particularly with different personnel, represents a fresh view of it—almost a new composition." According to Keepnews, Monk played piano more vividly and less introspectively than on his studio recordings in response to the enthusiastic crowds he drew nightly to the Five Spot Café.
On "Nutty", Griffin incorporated lines from "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and exhibited a frenetic swing that was complemented by counterplay from Haynes and Monk. "Blues Five Spot", a new composition by Monk, is a twelve-bar blues homage to the Five Spot Café that featured solos from each member of the quartet. Griffin and Monk transfigured chord structures and melodies throughout the performance. Griffin's solo vamp maintained the song's rhythm while quoting lines from other pieces, including the theme song for the animated Popeye theatrical shorts; he played "The Sailor's Hornpipe" at the end of "Blues Five Spot".
The quartet began "In Walked Bud" with an eight-bar piano intro and thirty-two-bar form by the quartet. Griffin began his solo a minute into the song with saxophone wails. In the third minute, Monk did not play, while Griffin played fast phrases at the top of his register with intermittently slower R&B and free jazz elements. Monk shouted approvingly throughout Griffin's solo before he resumed piano and played a two-minute theme. Monk performed a brief, unaccompanied version of the standard "Just a Gigolo", which was the only song on the album not composed by Monk. It comprises a single chorus.
The title track, first recorded in 1948, is one of Monk's most influential recordings and is based on a series of minor second clusters. The performance showcased his idiosyncratic playing of one blue note next to another. Monk superimposed musical ideas that deviated from the song's original tonal center, adding a C blue note to the D-flat blue note. Haynes' subdued drumming backed Griffin's aggressive bop playing and extended solo on "Misterioso".
Release and reception
Misterioso was released in 1959 by Riverside and sold for a retail price of $4.98. It was Monk's eighth album for the label. Nat Hentoff, writing in Hi Fi Review, said that the album is "not one of his best" and observed "too little space for Monk's soloing and somewhat too much" for Griffin, whose impressive saxophone "cry" and timing do not "convincingly tie together solos". Hentoff also felt that Haynes and Abdul-Malik do not support Monk as creatively as Wilbur Ware and Art Blakey had on his previous Riverside albums, where he said Monk was in more "hypnotic" form. In 1959, Monk was voted the pianist of the year in an annual poll of international jazz critics from Down Beat magazine, who said he can be heard "at his challenging, consistently creative best" on Misterioso. Upon the album's 1964 release in the United Kingdom, Charles Fox of Gramophone gave Misterioso a positive review and found its music "well up to standard", with Monk "in good form" and the rhythm section performing "excellently, with Roy Haynes displaying once again what a great drummer he was then – and, indeed, still is today." However, Fox felt that Griffin did not fit in with the quartet and overshadowed Monk's compositions, finding his solos diffuse and characterized by trivial quotations rather than any "attempt at development".
In the All Music Guide to Jazz (2002), Lindsay Planer gave Misterioso five out of five stars and said that the quartet "continually reinvent" their strong, cohesive sound with "overwhelming and instinctual capacities" throughout the album. Planer particularly praised Griffin, whom he said "consistently liberates the performances." Allmusic's Scott Yanow also gave it five stars and stated that Misterioso is slightly better than Thelonious in Action because of Griffin's "memorable improvising on a heated version" of "In Walked Bud". Robert Christgau said that, along with Brilliant Corners (1957), the album represents Monk's artistic peak. Christgau cited it as his favorite album of all time and, in a 2009 article for The Barnes & Noble Review, wrote that Griffin's tenor solo on "In Walked Bud" remains his "favorite five minutes of recorded music."
In 1989, Misterioso was digitally remastered on CD by mastering engineer Joe Tarantino, who used 20-bit K2 Super Coding System technology at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California. On May 15, 2012, Concord Music Group reissued the album as part of their Original Jazz Classics Remasters series, along with Jazz at Massey Hall (1953) and Bill Evans' 1962 album Moon Beams. The reissue featured 24-bit remastering by Tarantino and three bonus tracks, including a medley of "Bye-Ya" and "Epistrophy" performed with drummer Art Blakey. Concord vice president Nick Phillips, who produced the reissue series, said that Misterioso is "an all-time classic live Thelonious Monk record" and "an indelible snapshot of Monk live in the late '50s."
All songs were composed by Thelonious Monk, except where noted.
|2.||"Blues Five Spot"||8:11|
|3.||"Let's Cool One"||9:16|
|4.||"In Walked Bud"||11:20|
|5.||"Just a Gigolo" (composed by Irving Caesar and Leonello Casucci)||2:07|
|1989 bonus tracks|
|2012 bonus track|
|9.||"Bye-Ya / Epistrophy (Theme)"||11:54|
|United States||1959||Riverside Records||stereo LP||RLP 1133|
|mono LP||RLP 12–279|
|United Kingdom||1964||RLP 279|
|United States||April 7, 1989||Original Jazz Classics||CD||OJCCD-206-25|
|May 15, 2012||Original Jazz Classics, Concord Music Group||CD reissue||OJC-33725-02|
- Giddins, Gary (September 20, 1976). "Two Labels Pull Out the Old Bottles". The Village Voice (New York). p. 105.
- Fantasy 1995, p. 70.
- Keepnews, Orrin (1959). Misterioso (LP liner notes). Thelonious Monk Quartet. New York: Riverside Records. RLP 1133.
- Planer et al. 2002, p. 895.
- Schuller, Gunther (November 1958). "Thelonious Monk". The Jazz Review (New York).
- Tesser, Neil (2012). Misterioso (CD reissue liner notes). Thelonious Monk Quartet. Original Jazz Classics. OJC-33725-02.
- O'Meally et al. 1997, p. 39.
- Christgau, Robert (December 13, 2009). "Not So Misterioso". The Barnes & Noble Review. Archived from the original on April 12, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
- Fox, Charles (August 1964). "Jazz and Swing". Gramophone (London) 42: 118.
- Kurtz, Alan (May 26, 2008). "Thelonious Monk: Misterioso (1958)". Jazz.com. Archived from the original on April 12, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
- Hentoff, Nat (May 1959). "Thelonious Monk Quartet – Misterioso". Hi Fi Review 2: 115.
- "Thelonious Monk". Down Beat (Chicago) 26 (16): 56. August 20, 1959.
- Yanow et al. 2001, p. 1334.
- Christgau, Robert (February 22, 2005). "Noise on Music Central". The Village Voice (New York). Archived from the original on April 12, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
- "Thelonious Monk / Thelonious Quartet Monk – Misterioso CD Album". CD Universe. Muze. Archived from the original on March 29, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Original Jazz Classics Add Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and the Quartet Titles". All About Jazz. April 9, 2012. Archived from the original on March 29, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Misterioso OJCCD 206 2 : Thelonious Monk Quartet". Concord Music Group. Archived from the original on March 29, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- "Misterioso (Original Jazz Classics Remasters)". Concord Music Group. Archived from the original on March 29, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- Original Jazz Classics Collector's Guide. San Francisco: Fantasy, Inc. 1995. ISBN 0963742132.
- O'Meally, Robert G. et al. (1997). "Jazz Albums as Art: Some Reflections". In Bowles, Juliette. The International Review of African American Art 14 (1). Hampton University Museum.
- Planer, Lindsay et al. (2002). Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas, eds. All Music Guide to Jazz: The Definitive Guide to Jazz Music (4th ed.). Backbeat Books. ISBN 087930717X.
- Yanow, Scott et al. (2001). Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas, eds. All Music Guide: The Definitive Guide to Popular Music (4th ed.). Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0879306270.