Thelonious Himself

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Year: 1957

Genre: Hard Bop

Grade: A-

To quote The Simpsons: “You have to listen to the notes he’s not playing.” Thelonious Monk’s idiosyncratic piano style has always been an acquired taste, and that is never more blatantly obvious than on this dark and somewhat-depressed solo album. Without any backing accompaniment to provide a discernible groove, Monk has us anticipating notes that never come and drowning in silences that last uncomfortably long. It’s one of his most moving performances.

“Monk’s Mood,” the eight-minute final track, has John Coltrane’s lonely tenor saxophone bringing Thelonious Himself to an unexpected close. It’s one of the cleverest tricks Monk ever pulled.

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