Thelonious Monk

Monk 'Round the World (Hyena Records)

More than twenty years after his death, Monk remains something of a mystery -- an innovative pianist and composer whose persona vacillated between genius and idiot savant. Monk 'Round the World may not solve the riddle of his artistry, but it provides some fascinating opportunities for further study.

This two-disc set is anchored by a collection of live recordings from the early '60s that were cut in a series of far-flung locations: Monterey, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm and an unspecified spot in Europe. The versions of "Epistrophy," "Blue Monk" and the like have been bootlegged for years -- and no wonder, since their sound quality is first-rate. Even better is an accompanying DVD that captures Monk, saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley during a 1965 gig at London's Marquee Club. Throughout renditions of favorites such as "Rhythm-A-Ning," Monk, wearing his trademark Russian fur hat, has a quizzical, oddly dazed look on his face, as if he can't quite believe what his hands are doing.

Monk fans know the feeling.

 
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