Most of the titles on this album are derived from Thelonious Monk's vast catalog of bop standards. Both co-leaders are at the peak of their respective prowess with insightful interpretations of nearly half a dozen inspired performances from this incarnation of the Blakey-led Jazz Messengers. This combo features Art Blakey (drums), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Bill Hardman (trumpet), and Spanky Debrest (bass). Immediately, Hardman ups the ante with a piledriving lead during "Evidence" that underscores the heavy-hitting nature of this particular jazz confab. Monk counters with some powerful and inspired runs that are sonically splintered by the enthusiastic – if not practically percussive – chord progressions and highly logistic phrasings from the pianist. The inherent melodic buoyancy on "In Walked Bud" contains a springboard-like quality, with Griffin matching Monk's bounce measure for measure.
Forty-five years after her death, Mahalia Jackson remains the world's most famous gospel singer. "Moving On Up A Little Higher" explores Mahalia's roots, as she performs hymns of her childhood and reunites with her mentor, Thomas A. Dorsey. These performances date from 1946 to 1957, when Mahalia's voice was at it's golden best. Highlights include the only known recording of Mahalia, accompanied by Thomas A. Dorsey, two live versions of her first and greatest hit, "Move On Up A Little Higher" and two of her most important concerts: a 1951 symposium that introduced her to a larger, interracial public and the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival concert.