Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Thelonious Sphere Monk [World Galaxy/Alpha Pup, 2018] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Thelonious Sphere Monk [World Galaxy/Alpha Pup, 2018]
The only jazzman whose compositions have racked up more cover versions than Monk's is Ellington, who copyrighted over 2000 tunes. Monk's life total was 70. Think about that for a second. Counted too weird, too blunt, too ham-fisted, too trinkle-tinkle, too spacey, too nutty, Monk was a melodist of genius. But beyond "'Round Midnight," most of his covers are jazz covers; even Hal Willner's lost 1984 tribute That's the Way I Feel Now legitimized its Shockabilly and Joe Jackson sallies by giving equal time to Steve Lacy and Barry Harris. This sound-collage is different. Masterminded by techno-friendly LA guitarist Tim Conley, it performs the magic of refreshing a catalogue that's eternally new to begin with--just when you're wondering what's up, in sidles "Misterioso" or "Evidence" or "Epistrophy" or "Blue Monk" or "Let's Cool One" or "Nutty" itself. Rather than desecrating these timeless classics that were once too weird for words, the bleeps and electro-textures prove the melodies' mettle. Nor is Conley above strings or horns or playing a few of these beauties himself. Does it, er, swing? The answer, as it should be, is sometimes. A