Because a relatively small number of his breakthrough recordings—33 selections, including alternate takes, as leader and sideman, in just over two years—were done for Prestige Records, Thelonious Monk’s work for that small but distinguished independent label may have been given less than its due. And more’s the pity, for many stand with any of Monk’s best. Indeed, some are his very best. When, in late 1952, the brilliant pianist-composer (1917-1982) went into the studio for his first two Prestige sessions, he was still a cult figure, occupying a singular, but hardly enviable, position in jazz. His approach to the keyboard was widely viewed as “primitive” and his writing, while generally considered to have a certain off-kilter melodic interest, took more than a few too many previously unchartered harmonic liberties. But by the end of the Fifties, thanks in part to the words of some important critics on his behalf, people began to understand that Monk’s music possessed an enduring, refractive beauty all its own. Of the 15 Monk originals in this set—all of which made their debut on Prestige—virtually every one has become part of the modern jazz canon. And whether encouraging the young Sonny Rollins, benefiting from the exceptional support of Percy Heath, Art Blakey (whose drumming is particularly brilliant), and Max Roach, backing an imposing figure like Coleman Hawkins (the four 1944 sides with the father of the tenor saxophone were Monk’s first ever), or taking part in a timeless 1954 session with Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants, Monk wields a laser-like musical intelligence. Here, in a single box, are some of those thoughts that continue to resist pigeonholing, and have never stopped influencing the interwoven creative processes that are composition and improvisation.