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.
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.
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.