Thelonious Monk — Plays Duke Ellington

Happy New Year! This is the last post of the first full year of the blog.  The second half of this year had fewer posts than I had hoped for, but still ended up with 79 in total and I have a nice group of records set aside to start the new year.  Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate it and am always glad to hear from readers.  Feel free to comment on a post, or if you’d like to receive an email when a new post is up, subscribe using the tab on the top of the right side of the page.

I wanted to finish the year strong with an original pressing of the 1955 LP Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington.  This has the first version of the cover and the white deepgroove label.  This was his first recording for the Riverside label and includes Oscar Pettiford (bs) and Kenny Clarke (dr) in a trio setting.

I have always enjoyed Monk, but have been listening to his catalog a lot more lately and checking out stuff I hadn’t heard before–like the Riverside era.  For years I’ve had CDs of his early Blue Note and later Columbia work, but this LP along with some other excellent Riverside titles have shown me what I’ve been missing out on.

(Details: Riverside RLP 12-201/white label/deepgroove)

Thelonious Monk — It Don’t Mean A Thing (mono)

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9 Responses to Thelonious Monk — Plays Duke Ellington

  1. Congratuations for going the distance Tim, great choice to end the old kick off the new year. Looking forward to another year of quality jazz posts.The MSM are awash with mediocrity, we need this music now more than ever, vinyl is getting ever more scarce. Keep up the good work.

    • vinyltim says:

      Thanks so much LJC–your blog has been particularly lately with excellent posts and discussions. It’s also a great reference for label/deadwax info….Here’s to 2013!

  2. Phil says:

    Very cool! You’re pretty lucky to have a Riverside this old. My copy of this (blue label and second cover) is a pretty sad sight (and listen) in comparison.

    • vinyltim says:

      Thanks a lot–lucky for sure. Nothing wrong with a blue label pressing–those are early pressings and usually sound very good. Did you notice a difference between your copy and the needledrop I posted?

      • Phil says:

        Well the main thing I can remember without digging out my copy is that mine has a bit of damage to it, so in some places Monk’s louder playing gets a bit hissy on top. I am making a small upgrade soon from a bargain preamp to, uh, one only slightly less bargain-ish. The problem I’m trying to fix is that as it is right now a lot of my old jazz records sound nice but I really have to crank them up to get the sound I want. I can only imagine that this is putting a spotlight directly on the flaws of the records. I’m hoping a better preamp will soften that out. What I really need is a better stereo in general including an integrated amp and speakers or something of the like, but until I have more space and more money, that’s what I got.

        I did notice in general that Monk’s playing is a little hushed just like on my copy. Not a critique on Monk, but perhaps he was recorded in a way that really brought a chime like quality to his playing. It’s actually pretty brilliant when you think of the snippets of piano playing that Ellington let onto record over time – it sort of softens Monk’s approach and makes him sound a little more like Duke.

        I just acquired a copy of Mulligan Meets Monk and I was shocked at how brilliant and clean the piano sounded – recorded just two years later and in a bigger band. Maybe the softness I heard was just that time period in recording technology or something.

        I’m going to eventually put audio into my blog posts, so once I get through the handful of records I have on deck, I can dig this one out.

        • vinyltim says:

          My rig is nice but not fancy either. I have found that the cart and stylus can have a huge effect on even a simple system. There is a big difference in my Shure m97x cart with the stock stylus and the Jico replacement. Maybe something as simple as that along with some setup tweaks could improve playback.

          Also, I’ve yet to figure out the mysteries of old pressings. I’ve got clean glossy LPs that sound good and vibrant but have some crackle that you wouldn’t expect from looking at it. I also have many old pressings that look VG (sometimes even VG-) and play with surface noise, but it’s so quiet and the music is so strong that it powers through and sounds much better than the visual grade.

  3. Phil says:

    This will only be the first time I’ve ripped audio from my turntable for the purpose of my blog, but I put up a track from one of my Monk Riversides that I feel has some nice fidelity to it. Maybe I’ll post my Monk plays Duke LP someday for comparison. You do a nice job with your rips, let me know what you think of this one. Do you think I’d get better results taking the audio from my receiver instead of right from the preamp?

    • vinyltim says:

      I think it sounds good. I’m sure you could use that anytime you’d like to transfer from vinyl.
      I’m no expert with the rips. I know that there are programs folks use to clean up noise and pops etc…but I don’t use any of that. My system is simple but seems to work well. I go out of the headphone jack of my Macintosh 6100 (1/4″ split to stereo 1/4″) into an Apogee Duet, and into Logic Pro.

      • Phil says:

        Thanks – that would be my other option, to use my headphone jack, but my receiver is a Panasonic shelf system (with built in CD and DVD) that isn’t really the best match for vinyl, so I wonder if pulling straight from the preamp is ultimately a better idea. I will do a little of both in the future and see which sounds better over repeated use.

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