Concord Jazz Classics
    

Review by Willard Manus

Concord Music Group has brought back three jazz classics as part of its ongoing Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series: THE THELONIUS MONK QUINTET: MONK; SONNY ROLLINS WITH THELONIUS MONK AND KENNY DORHAM: MOVING OUT; and RED GARLAND QUINTET WITH JOHN COLTRANE: DIG IT!

Originally recorded by Van Gelder in the 1950s, these analog master tapes from the Prestige vault have been transferred to digital at 24-bit resolution.

"Given that Rudy was the original recording engineer on these projects, there's something that he brings to these remasters that no on else possibly could," said Nick Phillips, v.p. of Jazz and Catalog A&R at Concord. "He was the person documenting these great sessions on tape at the time. He remembers the performances, the interplay, the spontaneous actions and reactions among the artists on hand."

Each RVG series album includes both new and original liner notes--in this case by the same writers--and sells at the reasonable price of $11.95.

MONK spotlights the pianist's talent on seven different tracks: We See, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Locomotive, Hackensack, Let's Call This and Think Of One (two different takes). Monk is backed up (alternatively) by Frank Foster, Ray Copeland, Curly Russell, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Julis Watkins, Percy Heath and Willie Jones.

This is Monk in his early years: lighthearted, fresh, vigorous, always inventive and daring. He drew extensively on the jazz past, but managed to express himself in quirky, "Monkian" fashion. What sounded strange, even crazy when I first heard Monk in the 1950s, in New York clubs like Birdland and Royal Roost, now sounds natural and pleasing (especially on Hackensack, a tribute to Van Gelder and the New Jersey living room that served as his recording studio).

On MOVING OUT, Monk joins leader Sonny Rollins for a classic rendering of More Than You Know. Both men shared a long history, having rehearsed with each other from the time they were kids. They joined forces with Tommy Potter and Arthur Taylor in October of 1954 to record this ballad, which is notable for Rollins' lyrical solo and Monk's deft, dart-like provocations. The other four cuts on MOVING OUT feature Rollins fronting Kenny Dorham, Elmo Hope, Percy Heath and Art Blakey. They first recorded these numbers on August 19, 1954.

Rollins' inherent generosity of spirit and humanity shine through on this CD; his work led to his breakthrough albums a year later, the ones that made him famous: Work Time and Saxophone Colossus.

Red Garland first came to prominence as a member of Miles Davis' early bands, along with John Coltrane, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. Garland is one of jazz's finest pianists--though there are some who find him too flamboyant and showbizzy, another Erroll Garner--but he was in disciplined form when he led Coltrane, Donald Byrd, George Joyner, Paul Chambers and Arthur Taylor on DIG IT!, recorded by Van Gelder in the late 50s.

Billie's Bounce, written by Charlie Parker, Crazy Rhythm, CTA and Lazy Mae, a Garland original, comprise the four cuts on DIG IT! The tunes are mostly in a blues vein, especially Lazy Mae, which offers sixteen minutes of downhome sounds, mostly improvised, but deeply felt and moving nonetheless.

The other Van Gelder remastered releases in the Concord series include Miles Davis--The Musings of Miles, Jackie McLean--4, 5 and 6, Eric Dolphy--Out There, Coleman Hawkins--At Ease and Roland Kirk With Jack McDuff--Kirk's Work, among many others. Visit concordmusicgroup.com