Actually, Monk ‘Round The World is a composite of Monk performances from 1961 to 1964, when Monk’s quartet was playing in various venues throughout Europe and at the Monterey Jazz Festival. During those three years, Monk’s bassists and drummers changed from John Ore to Butch Warren to Larry Gales.... and from Frankie Dunlop to Ben Riley to Ben Riley but the saxophonist remained constant. Charlie Rouse, once teamed with Monk, became the flip side of the pianist’s musical personality, smoothing out Monk’s choppiness, making plain the melodic potential within Monk’s often unconventional harmonic changes.
Monk ‘Round The World starts its globetrotting in California, with "Epistrophy" played outdoors with a spirited playfulness, Monk’s sense of fun, his toying with music, evident from the performance, a combination of wonder at the ability of music to entertain and innovation in seeing jazz as an art form from a unique perspective. The remainder of the CD captures Monk’s quartets in nightclubs in Europe, where the applause is quieter but nonetheless just as spontaneous and where a greater sense of intimacy with the audience exists. "Blue Monk" from The Alhambra in Paris and "Hackensack" from an unknown location in Europe run the longest, provided extended opportunities to appreciate the swing either implicit or evident in his music. An abbreviated "Epistrophy" recorded in France closes the CD, actually bookending it with the opener as well.
Hyena Records takes advantage of the space in the jewel box to include an additional disk by backing the CD with, instead of another CD of even more music, a DVD recorded in London in 1965, as Hyena did for Monk In Paris: Live At The Olympia. And so, even more valuable than the albums of music that we’ve been able to hear for the past fifty years, we can now see Monk performing, even if we hadn’t the opportunity to do so in his lifetime.
With liner notes by Dorn, writing in his usual informal style of the eternal jazz enthusiast and by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who knew Monk and was an ardent supporter throughout most of his life, Monk ‘Round The World represents one more important recording in Thelonious Monk’s discography that’s apparently continuing far into the future.