Pianist/composer Thelonious Monk was and remains an American icon - no, you don’t hear his name bandied about the schoolyard like you used to, but he is one all the same. One of the Founding Fathers of that strange rebel music (of its time) called Bebop, one of jazz’s great minimalists, composer of many songs that’ve become standards, and possessor of a piano sound that was like no one before or since - in other words, stuff of which movies are made. Which brings us to the digitally remastered re-release of Straight No Chaser, the soundtrack of the film of the same name. Not only is the sound new ‘n’ improved, but there’s a nice juicy bonus track, the 11+ minutes "Straight No Chaser." What makes this platter unique among the MANY Monk discs on the market is the inclusion of brief snippets of dialogue from the movie - an annoyance to some, maybe, but it adds a bit of "audio verite" to the proceedings, like you’re getting some tantalizing glimpses into the man himself. Though not an all-inclusive overview of his career, Straight No Chaser gives a dandy cross-section of what many (you know, jazz scholars, and perhaps Monk, too) consider to be the peak of his career: the late 50s through the mid-60s. I say "peak" because of 3 factors: the quality (and quantity) of his output, the fact that Monk maintained a working, touring quartet and Monk was something of a jazz "star" (he made the cover of Time magazine in 1964). Many Monk treasures are here: "Ugly Beauty," "Epistrophy," "Evidence," to name only a few, played in solo, quartet and octet contexts, featuring the saxophonists Monk’s right-hand man Charlie Rouse, John Coltrane and Johnny Griffin. For the uninitiated, Monk’s playing and compositions are spare (never used a plethora of note when one or two would do just fine), sly, spacious and angular (the tunes never go quite the way you think they will yet the make their own, perfect sense. If you’re a Monk-ophile who appreciated the movie (produced by Clint Eastwood, no less) or someone new to his music and you wonder what all the fuss was about, go to a music saloon and order this aperitif Straight, No Chaser.