The position of legendary figure is usually reserved for a deceased musician who has played two decades before. It usually requires this posthumous status and span of time, for the various stories concerning him to grow into a legend but it took a very much alive Thelonious Monk only five years to surround himself with an air of mystery and receive the title "High Priest of Bebop" in the Forties. Perhaps this element of weird glamour prevented many people from enjoying Monk's music to the fullest extent. Certainly he is always low man on the totem pole whenever the triumvirate of the founding fathers of bop is evaluated. This is due in part, no doubt, to the greater solo prowess of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, but Thelonious's contributions in time, chord patterns, and the original lines resulting from them were unjustly minimized. Actually they were the basis for much of the jazz of the Forties and Fifties.
Today he stands as an individual, a highly original musician who is the mentor of many young musicians in New York and the influence of countless others all over the globe. In his writing and playing, he consistently proves his right to the often misapplied title of creator.
November 13, 1953 was a Friday. At WOR Studios preparations were being made for the recording date that would soon commence. Despite the obstacles, three tunes were cut with the third ending just before the studio closed for the day.
"Friday the Thirteenth," which is not heard here, will be reissued at a later date.
"Let's Call This" a languid, rolling line with solos of extended length by Sonny, Julius, and Thelonious.
"Think of One" is opened solo wise by Monk, followed by Sonny and Julius. Then Monk chords another bit with Percy coming through strongly. Both takes are presented here. In take 2, the line is played better. Take 1 has superior solos.
The spring date found Monk with an entirely new personnel surrounding him. From the ranks of Count Basie's band, tenorman Frank Foster brought his lilting swing and hard sound. Frank is a devotee of Sonny Stitt but not a slavish imitator. His vibrant solos which stand out in Count's band are even more effective in the small group. He is not like certain big band musicians who become fish out of water when asked to play sustained choruses.
Ray Copeland, who had missed the previous quintet session, was on the scene for this one. He had been associated with Monk before but this was his first important recording date. His style is a happy combination of Dizzy, blues, and undertones of swing with a fresh sweetness that is never cloying.
Art Blakey, one of the all-time greats of jazz history, has been Monk's rhythmic partner on numerous records and in-person appearances. Monk's music leaves the openings that Art's special grammar seems to punctuate so well.
One of the solid rocks in contemporary rhythm, Curly Russell rounds out the group with his big sound and articulate notes.