Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan – Mulligan Meets Monk
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This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime meetings of giants...Baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and pianist Thelonious Monk team up on this 1957 recording!
When Riverside pared Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan on this album, it seemed like a daring move. It is now clear that both men were the kind of revolutionaries who had substantial respect for the jazz tradition. It was more than a meeting of giants, it was proof of the strong bond connecting theoretically opposing forms of modern jazz (bop vs. cool).
Mulligan Meets Monk documents the 1957 meeting of two sharp musical minds. Though the pairing may seem unlikely, baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan -- whose cool, West Coast style blends dexterity with laid-back grace -- and Thelonious Monk -- whose radical, angular piano playing and thoroughly modern compositions are blueprints for the possibilities of bop -- sound remarkable together. In fact, it is the contrast between the players' styles that lends this set its balance and appeal.
The program, which includes four compositions by Monk and one by Mulligan, is unassailable. Mulligan acquits himself admirably on the Monk classics "'Round Midnight," "Rhythm-a-ning," and "Straight, No Chaser," unfurling his smooth tone over their zigzagging melodies and ambitious scalar architecture. Mulligan's "Decidedly," a bright bop workout, fits easily alongside Monk's tunes, especially with the help of Monk's off-kilter, accented comping. Bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Shadow Wilson lend solid support to the spirited playing of the two leaders, making this top-notch session -- with its great tunes, chemistry, and soloing -- a true classic.