‘Criss Cross’ – CBS / Columbia.
Notes by Nica de Koenigswarter
Hackensack; Rhythm-A-Ning; Tea for Two (trio); Criss-Cross; Eronel; Don’t Blame Me (solo); Think of One; Crepuscule with Nellie; Pannonica.
Thelonious Monk – piano; Charlie Rouse – tenor; John Ore – bass; Frankie Dunlop – drums.
In Berlin, after a recent concert by Thelonious Monk, a leading newspaper made the following comment: “Thelonious Monk is not only the greatest composer of modern jazz . . . he is the greatest composer since Bartok.”
From San Francisco to Stockholm, from Osaka to Amsterdam, the name of Thelonious Monk stirs the pulses and imaginations of musicians young and old; it draws people of all races and ages from their homes to jam the auditoriums where he appears. All agree that Thelonious Monk’s name is synonymous with “genius.”
In CRISS-CROSS, his second album for CBS, Thelonious is at his greatest. The tightly knit group (Charlie Rouse, on tenor sax; John Ore, on bass; Frankie Dunlop, on drums) is woven together by Thelonious’ incomparable piano. From first note to last, the album swings! It is difficult, indeed, to recall that it is sometimes said that Monk’s music is not the easiest listening. The only thing which is not easy about CRISS-CROSS is to keep your foot from tapping, to divert your attention for a single moment from the opening chorus of Hackensack to the last, lovely chords of Crepuscule With Nellie. Charlie Rouse, great as he always has been, is a revelation here: his playing takes wing. Charlie and Thelonious have a thing going between them of rare sensitivity and ever-mounting excitement.
To attempt an analysis, description or explanation of Thelonious’ music-making would be superfluous. His greatness lies in the very fact that he transcends all formulae, all well-worn adjectives and cliches; only a new vocabulary, perhaps, could suffice. One thing, though, is certain: this is the happiest of albums, leaving one with an extraordinary feeling of elation. On the way to the recording studio, someone asked Thelonious if it was true that he was going to do a solo of Don’t Blame Me during the session. He replied, “Maybe. It depends how I feel when I get there.” Well, when he did get there, he executed a couple of intricate dance-figures, sat down at the piano and went straight into it while everyone held his breath. Even if Thelonious’ music is precise and mathematical, it is at the same time pure magic. Listen, and you’ll see.
NICA DE KOENIGSWARTER
on air: Thelonious Monk, Eronel