Recorded in New York; August 12 and 13, 1957.
Digital remastering, 1987 (Fantasy Studios, Berkeley)
#5, 7 and 9 are bonus tracks (mono).
In the late 1950's/early 1960's, baritonist Gerry Mulligan participated in several recorded "meetings" with jazz musicians who he admired. For this set (reissued on CD in the OJC series), Mulligan teams up with pianist Thelonious Monk (who shares co-leadership), bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Shadow Wilson on a surprisingly successful date. Monk and Mulligan blend together quite well on what was essentially Thelonious' repertoire of the era including "'Round Midnight," "Rhythm-A-Ning," "Sweet And Lovely" and "I Mean You"; the CD reissue also includes three alternate takes and has plenty of joyful spirit.
-Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
========= from the cover ==========
This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime meetings of giants ...
It can be said that to date there have been basically two major schools of modern jazz. The start of it all was the music originally known in the early 1940s as "be-bop" and then "bop"; and although these specific terms are now out of fashion, the music itself-as adapted and per-mutated through a decade and a half-remains a vital force. Later in the 40s there arrived what has come to be known as "cool" jazz. Both developments were gradual and complex creations: no one man can be singled out as the only, or even the primary instigator of either. But no musicians can be considered as more significant to the birth of these two basic facets of the contemporary jazz revolution than, respectively, Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan.
Although only in fiction, legend and superficial histories of jazz is it claimed that vast changes take place in single blinding flashes, you can point out specific key times and places for modern jazz. One: the experimental sessions at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem at the turn of the '40s. Another: the late-'40s recordings for Capitol that have been put together into an album most aptly titled "Birth of the Cool." It is of course anything but coincidental that the playing and thinking of (in the first instance) Monk and (in the second) Mulligan were fundamental factors. You would be fairly safe, even in so argumentative a field as jazz, in reducing matters to the simplest terms and saying that bop begins with Monk and cool jazz begins with Mulligan.
Possibly even more significant is the fact that neither of these men were content merely to blaze trails and then sit back to let others follow them. Both remain in the very forefront of jazz creativity. Mulligan's first big impact on the jazz public was through his original Quartet (which included Chet Baker and Chic Hamilton), and he has gone on from there to lead other important bands-both small and large-and to create consistently fresh and adventurous arrangements both for his own groups and for others. He has also managed over the past several years to hold a steady lease on the top baritone sax position in those notoriously unstable indices of success and fame - the numerous polls operated by numerous magazines.
Monk, although he has been prominently on the scene ever since the start, remains an excitingly inventive creator who is just about as far in front of the pack as he ever was. Thelonious, at the time of this recording, was just beginning a resurgence of popularity that was to bring him, over the next few years, richly deserved and long overdue recognition from critics and audiences alike. Did this come about because more people arrived at a point of being able to grasp his concepts or was it because he began at this time to reach even greater peaks of his immense powers as composer and performer? You can take your pick between theories. The fact remains that Thelonious need no longer be classified as a neglected genius-and that this proper state of affairs dates from just about the period of this recording.
Since it is only in fiction, legend and superficial histories of jazz that there is supposed to be either indifference or active dislike between various schools of jazz, there should be nothing at all surprising in the revelation that Gerry and Thelonious have always had strongly positive feelings about each other's music. What may be more surprising is that there is a long-standing bond of personal friendship between them, and that the idea of playing together has long been a very appealing one to both men. Consequently, the suggestion that they record jointly made immediate sense to both.
Actually, Riverside's plans for the album were rather more pretentious than the way things turned out. We had in mind beginning with a simple quartet set-up, and gradually expanding to a large, all-star group and more formal arrangements. But at the end of one 'blowing' session (at which I Mean You, Rhythm-a-ning, and Straight, No Chaser were made), both Gerry and Thelonious felt strongly that this was so much the right groove that it would be a mistake not to complete the album this way. Having learned from experience that certain musicians know their business far better than any members of the control-room set, and having enjoyed the first session as much as they had, we offered no objections whatsoever.
The atmosphere on both occasions was one of complete and fruitful relaxation. There was much too much mutual respect and affection on hand for there to be any danger of feelings of competitiveness getting in the way. By general choice, the bassist and drummer with whom Monk was currently working at the Five Spot were used. Gerry had played with Shadow Wilson before, and knew to expect his wonderfully firm support. But Wilbur Ware was a new experience for him, and-like most people newly exposed to this extraordinarily inventive bassist- he was mightily impressed. It was Mulligan's preference to work largely with Monk's challenging tunes; it was his insistence that he have the opportunity to play the modern-jazz classic 'Round Midnight with its composer. A Mulligan original and a standard rounded out the picture. And, very probably, Gerry's approach to 'Round Midnight and the application of the Monk treatment to a characteristic Mulligan tune are the high spots of the LP.
This is not the sort of album that stands in any need of hysterical hard-sell -advertising copy on its liner notes. The solo work and the joint exploration of the lines worked out by both men can speak very ably for themselves. Among other things, the record serves to demonstrate that Mulligan's usual pattern of playing with a pianoless group is a concept, not a fetish. When the occasion calls for it, he is certainly neither unwilling nor unable to play most effective in the company of a pianist-or, at least, this pianist.
This is a rare meeting of major facets and major figures of jazz. It is, like their separate efforts, intriguing and provocative. It is in all probability a significant document, a piece of jazz history. But surely there has never been a more enjoyable and enjoyed historic occasion than these two evenings when Mulligan met Monk . . .
- Orrin Keepnews (notes reproduced from the original album liner)