The Colin’s Review Song of the Day for Wednesday, June 12, 2019, is Thelonious Monk’s version of “Honeysuckle Rose,” the third track from his 1956 LP, The Unique Thelonious Monk.
Fats Waller’s original 1934 “Honeysuckle Rose” recording is a delightful Dixieland stomp, with the ragtime piano playing a perfect complement to the song’s overall lighthearted nature. After a few, short, humorous verses, the soloists take the stand one by one. This is a song that could go on forever, and it’s a shame it doesn’t. Nevertheless, Waller’s influence remains eternal, thanks to endless reinvention and recognition.
“Honeysuckle Rose” has been covered countless times, but perhaps the best version is featured on The Unique Thelonious Monk.
On Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington, Monk took great liberties with the source material, transforming the songs into his own. For “Honeysuckle Rose” (and the entire Unique LP), he doesn’t stray far from the original script.
Despite Monk’s atonal, hard bop proclivities, he remains true to Waller’s stride roots. He’s basically channeling the ghost of Fats himself — this sounds pretty close to how the legendary pianist probably would’ve played it had he been alive in 1956 (save for a tingling melody or two).
The upbeat chord progression is retained from the original, as is the sense of ensemble camaraderie. Both Oscar Pettiford (bass) and Art Blakey (drums) receive solo spotlights, while a relatively subdued Monk — just like Waller before him — acts as a constant anchor.
Like the original “Honeysuckle Rose,” Monk’s version has a definitive ending yet feels like it could go on forever. It’s a shame it doesn’t.