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Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Quintet: Lookin’ at Monk

When this record was made in 1961 it could have served as an introduction to Monk’s music for listeners in tune with Griffin and Davis at a time when Monk was still largely a cult figure. The reverse could easily be true in 1999, as Monk’s star continues to rise and this great quintet is remembered unfairly as a stage for tenor battles. To be sure, the principal protagonists weren’t shrinking violets, but they were never just honkers, either, as the great solo construction and beautiful ballad interpretations here illustrate. The blowing underlines the fact that Monk used standard changes, but Junior Mance was at pains to work in some Monkish flourishes, which he does without stretching his bluesy style uncomfortably, and the Gales/Riley rhythm team are of course tuned right in, though they hit it differently here than they did with the master. This one will remind you why you love jazz.

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