I recently got hold of Miles Davis vs Thelonious Monk, solely because I’d read about this legendary track: the second take of ‘The Man I Love’.
It really is a gem. Miles and Monk were both innovators, but Miles here is more concerned with mood and atmosphere, whereas Monk is enjoying breaking down a melody as far as he can, taking it apart and not always bothering to put it back together again. In fact, throughout this legendary 1954 session, Monk’s playing is quite aggressively dissonant, in contrast to Miles’s cool tone. It makes for a strange listen.
Nobody knows what made Monk stop playing. Maybe Miles made clear his displeasure. I actually think Monk was breaking down the song to such an extent that the silence is part of his solo. Certainly, when Miles comes in (around 5:40) to fill the silence, Monk rallies and seems to almost chase Miles off his territory, as if to say, ‘Hey, I’m still playing here. This is my thing.’
So here it is. Have a listen. It starts with Milt Jackson on vibraphone. Monk comes in around 4:54 and falls silent at 5:29.