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Visiting the legendary Thelonious Monk this weekend, featuring his Nonet in a concert recorded from Mainz, Germany on November 8, 1967. Luckily for everyone, a lot of Monk’s material was recorded live, and most all of his studio material has been reissued and a lot of it has stayed available in various forms over the years. But the live stuff keeps popping up – new discoveries and unearthed archives make every listening a new experience. Which just goes to prove you can never get too much Monk in your diet.
For those of you just getting introduced, here’s some background via The Blue Note Website with notes by Scott Yanow:
Thelonious Monk grew up in New York, started playing piano when he was around five, and had his first job touring as an accompanist to an evangelist. He was inspired by the Harlem stride pianists (James P. Johnson was a neighbor) and vestiges of that idiom can be heard in his later unaccompanied solos. However, when he was playing in the house band of Minton’s Playhouse during 1940-1943, Monk was searching for his own individual style. Private recordings from the period find him sometimes resembling Teddy Wilson but starting to use more advanced rhythms and harmonies. He worked with Lucky Millinder a bit in 1942 and was with the Cootie Williams Orchestra briefly in 1944 (Williams recorded Monk’s “Epistrophy” in 1942 and in 1944 was the first to record “‘Round Midnight”), but it was when he became Coleman Hawkins’ regular pianist that Monk was initially noticed. He cut a few titles with Hawkins (his recording debut) and, although some of Hawkins’ fans complained about the eccentric pianist, the veteran tenor could sense the pianist’s greatness.
The 1945-1954 period was very difficult for Thelonious Monk. Because he left a lot of space in his rhythmic solos and had an unusual technique, many people thought that he was an inferior pianist. His compositions were so advanced that the lazier bebop players (although not Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker) assumed that he was crazy. And Thelonious Monk’s name, appearance (he liked funny hats), and personality (an occasionally uncommunicative introvert) helped to brand him as some kind of nut. Fortunately, Alfred Lion of Blue Note believed in him and recorded Monk extensively during 1947-1948 and 1951-1952. He also recorded for Prestige during 1952-1954, had a solo set for Vogue in 1954 during a visit to Paris, and appeared on a Verve date with Bird and Diz. But work was very sporadic during this era and Monk had to struggle to make ends meet.
Some of Thelonious Monk’s songs became standards early on, most notably “‘Round Midnight,” “Straight No Chaser,” “52nd Street Theme,” and “Blue Monk.” Many of his other compositions have by now been figured out by other jazz musicians and are occasionally performed including “Ruby My Dear,” “Well You Needn’t,” “Off Minor,” “In Walked Bud,” “Misterioso,” “Epistrophy,” “I Mean You,” “Four in One,” “Criss Cross,” “Ask Me Now,” “Little Rootie Tootie,” “Monk’s Dream,” “Bemsha Swing,” “Think of One,” “Friday the 13th,” “Hackensack,” “Nutty,” “Brilliant Corners,” “Crepuscule With Nellie” (written for his strong and supportive wife), “Evidence,” and “Rhythm-a-Ning,” Virtually all of Monk’s recordings (for Blue Note, Prestige, Vogue, Riverside, Columbia, and Black Lion) have been reissued and among his sidemen through the years were Idrees Sulieman, Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, Lou Donaldson, Lucky Thompson, Max Roach, Julius Watkins, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Gerry Mulligan, John Coltrane, Wilbur Ware, Shadow Wilson, Johnny Griffin, Donald Byrd, Phil Woods, Thad Jones, and Charlie Rouse. His son Thelonious Monk, Jr. (T.S. Monk) has helped keep the hard bop tradition alive with his quintet and has headed the Thelonious Monk Institute, whose yearly competitions succeed in publicizing talented young players. ~ Scott Yanow
Here’s what’s on the player:
Thelonious Monk Nonet
November 8, 1967
Thelonious Monk – Piano
Charlie Rouse – Tenor Sax
Ray Copeland – Trumpet
Johnny Griffin – Tenor Sax
Jimmy Cleveland – Trombone
Phil Woods – Alto Sax
Clark Terry – Trumpet
Larry Gales – Bass
Ben Riley – Drums
01 Ruby My Dear (quartet) [7:07]
02 Don’t Blame Me (solo piano) [5:03]
03 Rhythm-a-ning (C.Terry – trumpet) [4:46]
04 Straight, No Chaser
06 Oska.T [18:13]
Apparently, part of this concert was released officially, but it’s not included on this post. This is the part that wasn’t issued. So it’s rare.