By James Calemine
Born October 10, 1917, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Thelonious Monk’s family soon moved to New York City. Monk worked as a professional musician since his early teens as an organ player for a traveling evangelist.
Monk operated as one of the purveyors of the “Be-bop” jazz movement. After personal struggles and professional tribulations Monk went on to work with jazz legends Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Billy Smith, “Shadow” Wilson, Lucky Thompson. Coleman Hawkins, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins and many others.
Monk recorded Criss-Cross in November of 1962. Serving as his second album on Columbia, Criss-Cross ranks as one of Monk’s finest releases. “Hackensack” opens the CD by setting a tone with an upbeat sentiment. “Tea For Two” represents Monk’s band at a zenith. The title track contains a beat that fits any range or style of music, but Monk possessed his own sound. “Eronel”, a quirky ditty, emits a positive sonic influence. Monk’s keyboard cascades on “Don’t Blame Me” evoke a subterranean mood.
“Crepuscule With Nellie” renders a composition that blurs the line between jazz and blues…Monk’s organic musical backgrounds prove his ability to incorporate different American genres into his own style of music. This re-issue contains three bonus tracks from these sessions. Criss-Cross serves as evidence that Thelonious Monk personifies musical originality. He appears in my book Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2.