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Misterioso Live

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Live, April 7, 1989
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Editorial Reviews

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After he was denied club work in New York for years because a marijuana conviction kept him from holding a "cabaret card," Thelonious Monk's late-'50s stays at the Five Spot provided him with a forum through which he could reach an audience and also acted as an intense musical laboratory. Misterioso and its companion disc, Thelonious in Action, were Monk's first professionally recorded live dates, and they feature the excellent 1958 quartet with tenorist Johnny Griffin stretching out on Monk tunes like "In Walked Bud" and "Evidence." Monk could not only find new dissonances, but he could also find new meanings for dissonance, imbuing his sometimes elliptical, even minimalist, compositions with a joyous playfulness. Griffin adds a strong blues flavor and some unlikely quotations that leaven his intense focus. If this nugget tickles the ear enough to drive you toward the completist's deep end, check out Monk's Complete Riverside Recordings mega-box. --Stuart Broomer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 7, 1989)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Live
  • Label: Original Jazz Classics
  • ASIN: B000000YBI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,245 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I won't review this CD as a whole since many others have already. But in all these reviews I note scant mention of Johnny Griffin. In this live session from that now defunct little hole-in-the-wall, the Five Spot, Grif shows why he is considered the 'fastest tenor alive.' He's also the most passionate. His solos on this session are consistently amazing in their dexterity, imagination, and sheer emotional charge. He often moans ecstatically as he blows flourish after flourish of blue fire, yet never takes himself too seriously. He truly GETS Thelonious: the wry twinkle of Monkish humor. The second cut, 'Blues Five Spot,' is one of the greatest tenor solos of all time (See my Listmania, "Great Tenor Sax Solos.") Astonishing speed and melodic invention with the trio are followed by an un-accompanied cadenza of clean blues logic, topped off by the theme from Popeye the Sailor Man. Sonny Rollins was more magisterial and conscious of his greatness when he played with Monk; Trane was more esoteric and, well, heavy; but no one played Monk with more understanding than Johnny Griffin: they were friends for life. Grif knew the secret of Monk. The Master wasn't avant garde and he wasn't heavy: he was funky, blue, and full of laughter. Despite the primitive quality of the recording, and the idiots at the bar who keep dropping their glasses, this sizzling July evening in 1958, in the hippest of New York bars, at the heart of a by-gone era, is captured for all time here in one of the GREAT live jazz recordings.
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Format: Audio CD
Monk fans who instinctively think of Charlie Rouse should listen to this album; Johnny Griffin is in excellent form (e.g., "Let's Cool One"). Some first-rate drumming too (solo on "In Walked Bud" is downright melodic). The reviewer that dinged this wasn't listening very well. Buy it and see!
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Format: Audio CD
This album, along with Monk "In Action" (recorded at the same time as "Misterioso") are Monk's best work. I believe that they are the culmination of Monk's career.

First, we have Monk's strange and wonderful tunes; sparse, interesting in their apparent dissonance, but really well within the jazz mainstream. Most importantly, they provide wonderful platforms for the jazz musician who has open ears and who is creative enough to understand what Monk was really up to.

Second, Monk seemed to have reached some sort of personal zenith during his stay at the historic Five Spot in New York. His playing, always interesting if unorthodox, was terrific here - full of surprise, and invention. The curious thing about Monk is that he is essentially a stride pianist, but one who played not in the stride tradition, but on the edge of bebop, and with more apparent dissonance than anyone.

The real key to these recordings, however, is Johnny Griffin. I have heard Monk with Sonny Rollins, Coltrane, Charlie Rouse and others, but Griffin seemed to take more advantage of the the opportunity given him by Monk to totally create than anyone. Griffin was known at the time as the "world's fastest tenor player", and while the sobriquet may have been earned, it was what he played more than how fast that made his pairing with Monk so interesting. He was very informed by the blues and showed how Monk's odd harmonies weren't really that odd; what he played fit what Monk wrote.

This, along with Monk's "In Action" album, is one of my favorite recordings.
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Format: Audio CD
Misterioso, the title track on this album, is absolutely my favorite Monk song. I'm not a musician but it sounds so atonal yet perfectly melodic I can't think of another artist that can pull that off. I wish I could have seen him play and heard a 20 minute version!
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Format: Audio CD
This one is a humdinger! Unlike Monk's work with later accompaniest Charlie Rouse (who, although a superb musician, at times seems willing to bend over backwards to keep from stepping on Monk's musical toes), this stuff has an incredible asset in the way of sax man Griffin, who stretches out further and gets a bit wilder. Probably my desert island Monk recording. No need to say more, I suppose.
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By John E on January 3, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Monk's quirkiness and brilliant originality are on display here in spades, but aside from that this cd is also so melodic and charming that it should be of value to anyone, not just jazz snobs. This is a brilliant but also oddly lovely cd.
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Format: Audio CD
It seems to me that Johnny Griffin's stay with Thelonious Monk gets very little press for some reason. Why? I don't know, but who cares. This is an amazing live recording taped in 1958 at the Five Spot with Monk, Johnny Griffin on tenor saxophone, Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. What amazes me to this day about Monk was his ability to always sound like himself regardless if he was playing a jazz standard or not.

Monk's own compositions were strange vehicles that even the strongest soloists have had difficulty with. Could it be the unusual structure or melody of his compositions? I don't know, but what I do know is that even as strong as a soloist as Johnny Griffin is, he had difficulty with some of Monk's tunes. Although, the untrained ear can't quite hear the subtle mistakes. Griffin made some as does every musician, but what makes these performances compelling is that Griffin is locked into this music. He loved Monk so much as did so many other musicians who have known or worked with him. I think if Griffin would have stuck around with Monk for a longer period of time, he might have been the greatest saxophonist to have played with him, but unfortunately the recordings with these two masters are simply not available.

The title track, which Monk has played many times gets a great treatment here as does "Let's Cool One," "Nutty," and "In Walked Bud." You can always expect to be pleasantly surprised when you hear Monk whether live or in the studio, he makes jazz music unlike any other.

Great live recording that everyone should get if you're a Monk or Griffin fan.
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