Thelonious Monk Quartet – Live At Maison de l’ORTF, Paris – March 20, 1966 – Radio France –
The legendary Thelonious Monk and his quartet, featuring Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums, recorded live at ORTF Paris’ Maison de l’ORTF on March 20, 1966. Undoutedly not the whole concert (it abruptly cuts off around 31 minutes in), but even five minutes worth is a much-needed respite from the insanity of this day/week/month/year.
Forgive the editorializing, but the music of Thelonious Monk is a balm for the soul. Just listening to this made me forget what a completely rotten year this has been and just how much music has become essential to any sort of healing, or even distraction from the noise that fills seemingly every day lately.
That said, here’s a rundown on Monk’s activities during the period of the 60s, as explained by Wikipedia:
After extended negotiations, Monk signed in 1962 with Columbia Records, one of the big four American record labels of the day. Monk’s relationship with Riverside had soured over disagreements concerning royalty payments and had concluded with a brace of European live albums; he had not recorded a studio album since 5 by Monk by 5 in June 1959.
Working with producer Teo Macero on his debut for Columbia, the sessions in the first week of November had a lineup that had been with him for two years: tenor saxophonist Rouse (who worked with Monk from 1959 to 1970), bassist John Ore, and drummer Frankie Dunlop. Monk’s Dream, his first Columbia album, was released in 1963.
Columbia’s resources allowed Monk to be promoted more heavily than earlier in his career. Monk’s Dream became the best-selling LP of his lifetime, and on February 28, 1964, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine, being featured in the article “The Loneliest Monk”. The cover article was originally supposed to run in November 1963, but it was postponed due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. According to biographer Kelley, the 1964 Time appearance came because “Barry Farrell, who wrote the cover story, wanted to write about a jazz musician and almost by default Monk was chosen, because they thought Ray Charles and Miles Davis were too controversial. … [Monk] wasn’t so political. …of course, I challenge that [in the biography],” Kelley wrote.
Monk continued to record studio albums, including Criss Cross, also in 1963, and Underground, in 1968. But by the Columbia years his compositional output was limited, and only his final Columbia studio record, Underground, featured a substantial number of new tunes, including his only 3-4 time piece, “Ugly Beauty”.
As had been the case with Riverside, his period with Columbia contains many live albums, including Miles and Monk at Newport (1963), Live at the It Club, and Live at the Jazz Workshop, the latter two recorded in 1964, the last not being released until 1982. After the departure of Ore and Dunlop, the remainder of the rhythm section in Monk’s quartet during the bulk of his Columbia period was Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums, both of whom joined in 1964. Along with Rouse, they remained with Monk for over four years, his longest-serving band.
Hit the play button and dive in – put the world behind you for at least the next 31 minutes.