Misterioso | Thelonious Monk Album Review

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Year: 1958

Genre: Hard Bop

Grade: A

Amidst a troubled period of drug abuse, legal troubles and racial discrimination, Thelonious Monk finally achieved stardom in 1957 with the masterful Brilliant Corners. He cemented his reputation with a legendary residency at the Five Spot Café the following year.

Misterioso comprises the Thelonious Monk Quartet’s concert on August 7, 1958. It’s a legendary performance. Monk’s music perfectly conveys the intimate setting of the Five Spot, a club he helped put on the map. This is the perfect spot for Monk — a small venue full of hipsters, bohemians and devoted aficionados of the pianist’s artistry. The energy in the room is palpable.

Unexpectedly, the show is stolen — for five minutes, at least — by tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. His iconic solo at the beginning of “In Walked Bud” is, without a doubt, one of the finest moments in jazz history. Famed music critic Robert Christgau even goes so far as to call it his “favorite five minutes of recorded music.”

Despite Misterioso being Monk’s first popular success, it also represents the culmination of his cult status. This is the most innovative pianist of all time at the peak of his powers — it’s no wonder that Christgau also considers it his favorite Monk album.

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