Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane

1957 was a defining year for these two jazz greats. After a lengthy absence, Thelonious Monk's newly reinstated cabaret card permitted him to return to the fertile playground of the New York City jazz clubs. John Coltrane just completed an informal tutelage under Miles Davis, successfully kicked heroin and was in the midst of a self-described "spiritual awakening." At that moment either artist could have single-handedly redrawn the boundaries of contemporary music. Together, they obliterated such confines. In the late spring of 1957, producer Orrin Keepnews recorded sessions that would yield tracks for various Riverside releases like Monk's Music, Thelonious Monk Himself and the equally aptly titled Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane. Wonder twin powers activated and the conceptions of jazz were forever changed as Coltrane's sax blew smoke rings around Monk's flat-fingered angular piano runs. The preserved sessions now presented in their chronological entirety, though digitally polished, retain a certain amount of rawness. "Off Minor" still slithers and blares while the awkward shuffle of "Crepuscule with Nellie" stumbles like a graceful drunk. Whether this Riverside archive is seeing the light of day to coincide with last year's Blue Note release of an unearthed 1957 Carnegie Hall performance or to simply capitalize on it, The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings is a valuable asset to any music collection, at once a solid introduction for the uninitiated replete with the requisite alternate takes, studio chatter and liner note insights that make aficionados salivate.

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