Recorded at the beginning of John Coltrane’s five-month tenure with Thelonious Monk, when the two men were still learning each other’s moves, the eight lengthy compositions here (most of which appeared on Monk’s Music
and Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane
, as well as on numerous reissues thereafter), constituted the only documentation of this transformative association for close to half a century. These studio sessions -- a drummerless trio with Monk, Coltrane, and bassist Wilbur Ware; a septet propelled by Art Blakey and pairing Coltrane with Coleman Hawkins, Monk’s early employer and supporter; and three legendary tracks by the first Five Spot quartet, with Shadow Wilson fueling the fire on drums -- were superseded in 2005 with the release of At Carnegie Hall
, based on newly discovered, professional-quality tapes of two Monk-Coltrane sets from their fourth month together. This release collates the entire proceedings of the four studio sessions, including five takes of “Crepuscule with Nellie,” among them a breakdown take on which Monk falls asleep at the piano; a false start of “Monk’s Mood”; and an aborted run-through of “Well, You Needn’t.” More essential perhaps is the 24-bit digital remastering and a detailed, first-person account by producer Orrin Keepnews. Hearing Monk and Coltrane coalesce from the rather tentative readings of “Well, You Needn’t” and “Off Minor” to the assured mastery of “Ruby, My Dear,” “Nutty,” and “Trinkle, Tinkle” from the quartet sessions is nothing less than fascinating. Coleman Hawkins’s own reading of "Ruby My Dear" remains, and will forever be, a masterpiece of the canon.