WALTER DAVIS JR.:
In Walked Thelonious
My friend and superb pianist, Walter Davis, Jr., led relatively few recording sessions throughout his career — despite scores of dates with jazz giants Bird, Dizzy, and countless others. I think, and many critics agree, this may be his best recording — certainly his most personal. It's Walter's tribute to Monk, his mentor from age 16 on. Musician says this CD "evidences the elusive rhythmic subtlety, spare pianistic understatement, emotional weight and giddy melodic twists that elude most of today's virtuosos..." CD Review says, "4 Stars...this album is a legacy." According to Down Beat: "...remarkably original and powerful. 4 ½ Stars." (#56312)
Walter Davis Jr., piano
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Unlike some of the "bebop" pianists who mine the Bud Powell/Monk tradition, the late Walter Davis Jr. never treated their compositions as classical warhorses to be dusted off for the rubes or to demonstrate one's dedication to some sort of tipsy artistic purity. As a result, this solo recital is a striking evocation of Monk's spirit. Splendidly recorded on an ancient Steinway, In Walked Thelonious evidences the elusive rhythmic subtlety, spare pianistic understatement, emotional weight and giddy melodic twists that elude most of today's virtuosos Ü who can't get past the surface of Monk's themes, save as perfunctory chordal outlines for some effusive blowing that has nothing to do with Monk's essence. (2301 Crain Highway, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772  627-9774)
Thelonious Monk's music is, of course, most truly Monk's when he plays it. Yet all serious modern jazz musicians must come to terms with Monk's music. They all must find their own 'Round Midnight.
In Walked Thelonious is neither Monk nor an interpreter using Monk's music as an improvisatory starting point. Rather, as pianist Dwike Mitchell commented the first time he heard this album, "It's Monk playing through Walter Davis' hands." Davis was a mystical man, and he's certain that Monk, his mentor and close friend, "came into the room" one night while he practiced, one week before this recording session.
Scoff if you will at the story of Davis' seance. But just listen to Crepuscule with Nellie. Isn't that Monk hammering those opening notes and insisting on the oblong spaces between them? Yet Walter Davis is also present: His soft touch softens the edges of his most hermetic of love songs.
It's the same with Ruby, My Dear. A beauty this austere could only come from the consciousness of Monk, yet Walter Davis is singing this song.
'Round Midnight requires two versions, and well it should. Davis takes his broadest liberties with this most suggestive of Monk's themes, yet these pieces are the most Monkian in their proud paradoxes.
For Walter Davis, who died in 1990 after a long career as one of the most reliable sidemen in jazz, this album is a legacy. For Thelonious Monk, this album is a visitation.