Feast your eyes on one of many Blue Note masterpieces. A record every jazz collection should be founded upon. It’s BLP 1510 and it’s known locally as Genius Of Modern Music Volume One by Thelonious Monk.
It’s an example of mid/late 1940s Bebop. And it caused quite a stir. It’s hard to understand why jazz of this variety might freak people out so much in the 1940s. It contained the typical instruments - piano, trumpet, sax, bass, drums - in various pairings. I guess when you think of really melodic, danceable big band stuff of the day - Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Chick Webb - this new Bebop would sound weird and almost chaotic.
A bunch of people in Monk’s day thought he was a nut. Or worse. He introduced a number of innovations to jazz that were too hard to understand - unless you wanted to hear (or learn) something new. Specifically, the liner notes on this record reference his “harmonic innovations…(and)…new chord patterns…” The sober but positive album review from Ira Gitler says that Monk’s creativity embraces the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic.
Today, Monk’s easily credited as one of the inventors of the Bebop idiom. But back in the mid 1940s he sounded weird. I understand. When I first heard Monk, he sounded different to me too. I was more familiar with the late 50s through early 70s jazz piano grooves of John Lewis, Bill Evans, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Tommy Flanagan and Horace Silver. All awesome at their craft. But more melodic and accessible to my ears.
Fresh. That’s the word for it. Thousands of jazz LPs came after these recordings by Monk. And this music still sounds fresh. Unique. And very accessible to anyone willing to listen to an album a time or two.
For weirdos only: I’d like to list all the musicians who play on this record but it’s just too many people. Why so many people? For one thing, this LP was compiled from a bunch of 78 rpm “sides” recorded at different dates with different personnel. These songs first appeared on the Blue Note 500 and 1500 series. Tracks were culled from the following 78s: 542, 543, 547, 548, 549, 560 1564, and 1575. Most of the songs on the LP pictured above also appeared on 10” LP 5002 (also called Genius Of Modern Music but two full inches smaller and with a cool photo of Monk wearing some superbad glasses). One track - In Walked Bud - makes it’s appearance on this LP after showing up on another 10” LP called Genius Of Modern Music Vol. 2. That cut was released earlier on BN 548, another 78 rpm 10 incher. The other cuts were either unreleased in the 40s or never released on LP until this one. Who says the reissue frenzy taking place these days is a new phenomena?