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78 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Improved remasterings of under-rated '60's Thelonious, November 25, 2012
By 
E. Weed (Houston, TX) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
While reissues of Thelonious's '50's material, particularly the Riverside recordings, have been ample (including audiophile 45 rpm LPs), Thelonious's '60's work for Columbia has been somewhat overlooked in comparison. Indeed, the "street noise" about Thelonious's 60's work is that the high quality of the inspiration and innovation heard in the '50's dipped once Thelonious found a major label to work with and achieved a higher level of fame and fortune.

On the other hand, for any jazz musician, there is much to be said for steady work with a steady band. In the '60's, Thelonious had both. All six studio records covered in this set feature Charlie Rouse on tenor, and 1 of 2 sets of bass/drummer combinations. Rouse and Monk teamed up in the late '50's, and Rouse became a very nearly perfect foil for Thelonious, such that Thelonious had no reason or real desire to change horses as his Columbia contract rolled on forward. And Rouse is great -- very, very fluid, with a very solid grounding in the blues, yet an unstinting -- and always unflappable -- ability to follow Thelonious's unique ideas about rhythm, phrasing and harmony.

I have been a devoted fan of Thelonious's since the early '70's, and consider Thelonious, along with Miles Davis, to be -- at least for me -- the 2 great jazz men of their generation. Thelonious was an incredibly unique voice in jazz. Musicians I knew who were in the Dave Brubeck camp of smooth, precise playing and mellifluous harmonies found Thelonious' sometimes jagged, unorthodox phrasing and dense, offbeat harmonies excessively peculiar. Others of us were excited by the unexpected twists in his phrasing, and the shifts away from customary harmony ranged from piquant to deeply poignant, especially as applied to any of the old standards that Thelonious liked to appropriate.

Then and now I am as likely to listen to Thelonious's '60's work as any of his other work, and half of the material in this box is just as deeply etched into my musical memory as much of the '50's material. I think these records are (almost) all great -- just more of Thelonious honing his material.

I was very hopeful that the sound on the reissues in this box would be improved over the early '90's CD issues of these records, and took the time to compare the '90's Monk's Dream with the new version in the box. Although I could find no specific mention of a remastering for this set, the credits note that the mastering was done by Mark Wilder (and Seth Foster), and it was Wilder who was credited with the mastering of the new Weather Report box (which is excellent). I am happy to report that the new Wilder version of Monk's Dream represents a substantial improvement over the '90's version, and the rest of the box sounded similiarly excellent. I also compared It's Monk's Time to the LP. (Yes, there are some of us who still like LP's, and a very clean copy of the first issue of any of the LP's in this box is both hard to find and not inexpensive.) The new CD master is fine enough that I will (happily) quit searching around for original issues of any of the LP's in this box.

With the quality of the music, the remastering, and the very cheap price, I strongly recommend snapping up this box right away. If you haven't heard Thelonious, this is a perfectly good place to start, and if you only know his work from the '50's material, well, here is a whole new batch of great listening.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inexpensive and Excellent, But a Touch Misleading, December 29, 2012
This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
First, there's no need to disagree with those who say that this is terrific music; it is, though I'd start with the mid-50s Riverside albums or the underrated Prestige sets (get The Complete Prestige Recordings) first. Still, there was something magical about a Monk making money for a change, as if he could finally relax and just focus on the playing, letting his older compositions find a new audience. Charlie Rouse is a fine saxophonist with a keen ear for melody and a solid connection to this level of Monk, and they hit Monk's Dream having already worked on the last few Riverside releases prior to Monk's Columbia contract. There, as here, the focus was remaking some of Monk's finest songs in (mostly) quartet environments that provide occasional surprises. Those looking for fireworks should start with this debut album, and then immediately precede to other labels for Brilliant Corners featuring Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, or his concerts with Johnny Griffin recorded on Complete Live at the Five Spot 1958. Rollins, Coltrane, and Griffin could go with Monk where no others could, pushing the already challenging music into a new place. But if you started with "Monk's Dream", you'll remember that the band there had its own unique flavor, and though that record is the best representation of this, all of this box set is devoted to seeing how that style of Monk (which he would keep for the rest of his career) played out.

To truly judge that, though, you'd need ALL of Monk's albums from that era, so let's deal with that "complete" business before moving forward. Certainly, these are the justly celebrated Columbia quartet albums (as advertised), but in fact they are the STUDIO quartet albums. If you want to hear one of the quartets utilized here in maximum live form, check out Live at the It Club: Complete, or catch an on-fire octet on the sorely in need of remastering Big Band & Quartet in Concert,which gives a taste of the Rouse-Monk connection but also adds some lovely charts for octet on some extended pieces by the same arranger as the justly-celebrated At Town Hall big band recording (also featuring Rouse) from the Riverside days. You'll also be missing the necessary Solo Monk, but you can pick that up on the side for next to nothing. It's a good contrast to the Monk with band work, even if it, too, lacks some of the spark of the Riverside solo sets. Not missed a bit: the obnoxious charts on the contract-killer Monk's Blues, which should be avoided by all but completists.

Individually, these albums are all solid, and most contain at least one all time great moment, like "Lulu's Back in Town" from It's Monk's Time, "Teo" from Monk, or the title track to Criss Cross. Those albums, though, also contain a lot of repeated material, sometimes from each other ("Pannonica", lovely as it is, for some reason pops up twice in two years), and can sometimes suffer from elongated playing times on some of the songs. This becomes such a pattern, in fact, that the real surprise lies in the last two albums, Straight No Chaser and Underground. Here Monk revives some lost treasures of his own, finds strange new covers to explore, and, on the last disc, really kicks his band into gear with no less than four fantastic originals. That's another good thing to keep in mind: outside of "Underground", each disc has one or two new songs (which are usually much simpler than his earlier work) mixed with re-made old hits, but when the hits are this great, you won't mind hearing new approaches, and Monk never did anything the same way twice. Still, "Underground" seems to point to a new direction, a place where Monk writes daring new material and keeps his career going for at least another decade. Instead, this was the second to last blast of the Monk we knew (the last is not "Monk's Blues" but the Black Lion trio sets of the early seventies) before he fades into reclusion. In that sense, this music becomes more valuable, a chance to hear Monk at rest, an entertaining Monk no longer trying to write the world's greatest jazz compositions, but who focuses instead on solid performances, and who invites you along for a ride. It's a good idea to take it.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walter Combs, October 27, 2012
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This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
Thelonious Monk's albums for Columbia from the 1960s are among his finest recordings. Many jazz scholars disagree with me om this, but the quartet with tenor sax player Charlie Rouse put Monk's music into shape in a way the earlier recordings for Blue Note and Riverside never did - even with collaborators like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Max Roach - because Monk himself has more room to stretch out, make his unorthodox style readily accessible and guide the band in ways that he couldn't with the giants mentioned above. ``Straight, No Chaser'' and ``Underground'' are the best albums of the six, but all are essential listening for jazz fans. The sound quality is better here than in the reissues of the 80s, and the packaging reproduces the original album covers.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a fantastic collection., January 8, 2013
By 
Dave Bender (Eugene, OR United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
The music is great, the playing fabulous, especially Charlie Rouse. The 'albums' are in their jackets with cover photos and liner notes intact. It's a tremendous boxed set in every way!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monk, January 13, 2013
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This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
Original covers on the CD sleeves, original album notes, plus added liner notes. A good collection. Four more words, done.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous 60's Monk, September 11, 2013
By 
Dean Robb (Plainfield, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
You really, REALLY can't go wrong with this set. All six of Monk's 60's studio releases on Columbia, plus a ton of alternate takes, plus superb remastering, plus a bunch of formerly unreleased photos from the sessions, all for dirt cheap (especially if you buy it from another seller than Amazon). What are you waiting for?? A towering genius at work with deeply sympathetic partners. Yeah!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love the Columbia years, July 29, 2013
This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
I prefer vinyl but this box set cost about as much as a single used lp. The music as you know if reading this stellar. The extra bonus tracks are also quite good. If you want a definitive look at the monks Columbia years this is the one to buy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 60's Were The Best, December 22, 2013
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This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
Some fans prefer the 50's recordings on Riverside and dismiss the Columbia records as coasting. I disagree. I think that Monk had finally achieved the status he needed to think about leaving his legacy. Yes, most of these tunes had been recorded before, but Monk had the band he wanted to record his work the way he wanted. After all, how many times did Ellington record "Take the A train" or "Mood Indigo"? With the Columbia recordings, Monk was recording his work the way he wanted it to be remembered. And don't take Charlie Rouse for granted. He was often described with the back-handed compliment of being a great interpreter of Monk. Yes, he knew these difficult tunes backward and forward, but he was a great, soulful soloist in his own right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Thelonious Monk, July 14, 2013
By 
Reuben E. Marks Jr.g (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
I am not a huge fan of Thelonious Monk although I have a number of his albums, however, I find his music interesting to say the least. The complete Columbia Studio Albums Collection is a very nice box set. It's very reasonably priced and a good bargain at that. The music is great and the sound is very good. I have a cheap stereo set, so I can only imagine how much better it would sound on a good sound system. The musicians on this album may not be household names in the world of jazz, but they do a great job backing Monk and Charlie Rouse on this album collection. If you are a fan of Thelonious Monk chances are you already have this box set in one form or another, if not get it. For the casual jazz fan or someone new to the music of thelonious Monk, perhaps you should start elsewhere. If you like this album, then I would Highly recommend the album Monk In Tokyo.
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4.0 out of 5 stars It's not the best version song for song, September 4, 2014
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This review is from: Complete Albums Collection (Audio CD)
I originally bought all these disks when they each appeared in vinyl. As a Monk fan from the '50s, they don't have the emotional appeal of the earlier Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside recordings. In the Monk catalog, I would rate them 3 stars because of the high standards of his earlier recordings. The music is repetitious by comparison.

So why the 4 star rating? There is a lot more here than on the original LPs and the price is actually less than I paid. If you factor in inflation, they are truly substantially less (and for more music).

It's not the best version song for song, So what! It's still Monk.

After this, go for the trios recorded in London years later.
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Complete Albums Collection
Complete Albums Collection by Thelonious Monk (Audio CD - 2012)
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