Thelonious Monk: Evidence




Thelonious Monk (piano)


Thelonious In Action: Live at the Five Spot (Riverside 12-262)

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Thelonious Monk (piano), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass), Roy Haynes (drums).

Composed by Thelonious Monk


Recorded: live at the Five Spot, New York, August 7, 1958


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

The topic of Thelonious Monk's drummers is intriguing. While many major players, from Kenny Clarke to Art Blakey to Max Roach to Philly Joe Jones shared the stage with Monk, it seems today that it's largely a collection of second-tiered masters, including Shadow Wilson, Ben Riley and Frankie Dunlop, that ultimately defined the Monk drum sound through their extended engagements with the pianist. While a shift from the movie stars to the character actors of the drumming world can often yield underwhelming results, Monk's brilliant musical legacy is anything but by-the-book, and it allowed some unsung heroes to rise to the occasion and contribute greatly to his music.

This would be a nice, neat little argument if Roy Haynes didn't spend a good portion of 1958 setting the bar for how to creatively enhance Monk's music without getting in the pianist's already rhythmic way. Looking back, it's interesting to think of Haynes, one of the original bebop masters who offered something a bit different from the outset, as the leader of the second wave of the more quirky, individualized post-bop drummers. (Billy Hart did once call Roy Haynes the "first avant-garde jazz musician" because of the way he altered rhythmic output.)

Situated in Monk's career between Wilson and Dunlop, Haynes's rhythmic ingenuity was a perfect foil for Monk's mood. Throughout "Evidence," Haynes finds all the right spots (and there are many of them) to fit his unforced, "blink-and-you'll-miss-'em" polyrhythms into Monk's spacious melodies. But it's his ability to openly engage in the pianist's dialogically improvised, unpredictable phrases that makes Haynes the high-water mark for Monk interaction. It's easy for a drummer to sound sloppy comping behind Monk, which is probably why so many of them maintained a steady swing groove with only minor, form-fitting interactions. Yet Haynes's lively choices consistently made perfect sense.

Reviewer: Eric Novod

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