Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thelonious Monk In 1964

Thelonious Monk (piano; b. 1917 - d. 1982)

The year is 1964, Thelonious Monk has become a household name. He was the in-demand performer. The leading light among jazz musicians. He garnered the cover of Time magazine in February of that year. At the beginning of 1963 Monk had just recorded the highly successful Criss Cross (Columbia) album which included such staples as Rhythm-A-Ning, "Crepuscule With Nellie," and "Hackensack". Monk would spend the majority of '63 touring.
He did not return to the studio until January of '64. At this time he would embark on one of his most critically acclaimed albums yet, It's Monk Time (Columbia). It's Monk Time marked the introduction of a new quartet featuring Charlie Rouse (who actually had already been with him on Criss Cross) on sax, Ben Riely on drums and Butch Warren on bass. The quartet hit it off immediately in the studio and the results were a thematic and melodic success. The material may not be the most recognizable of the Monk cannon but it is an important album in that the band rehearsed and performed live consistently over the three months it took lay these tracks out. It's Monk Time featured lovely interpretations of "Memories Of You,"Nice Work If You Can Get It," and phenomenal "Brakes Sake" which showcases the "oneness" between Charlie Rouse and Thelonious Monk.
A key document to me are a series of dates recorded in Paris in February 1964, entitled Live In Paris Vol. I & II (Explore Records/Thelonious Records). The same quartet had embarked on a European tour. The material is mainly from the previous years sessions but the playing is of the highest order. The band are really on fire as you can hear on tracks like Straight No Chaser","Well You Needn't," and "Bright Mississippi". The band were working on strong purpose. The simpatico that Rouse and Monk had was always evident. But it was how quickly and flawlessly that Riely and Warren melded into place that is astonishing. This for me is one of my favourite Monk lineups and they proved every night in 1964 and onward.
The Live In Paris Vol. I & II accompanied with It's Monk Time are three Monk albums that give a super quick jazz lesson for 1964.
Not much video footage from this year but here's a great video from Europe with Monk 1963 lineup featuring Frank Dunlop (drums), Charlie Rouse (sax) and Johnny Ore (bass).

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