Thelonious Monk – With John Coltrane (1961)

FrontCover1Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane is a 1961 album by Thelonious Monk issued on Jazzland Records, a subsidiary of Riverside Records. It consists of material recorded four years earlier when Monk worked extensively with John Coltrane, issued after Coltrane had become a leader and jazz star in his own right.

The album was assembled by the label with material from three different sessions. The impetus for the album was the discovery of three usable studio tracks recorded by the Monk Quartet with Coltrane in July 1957 at the beginning of the band’s six-month residency at New York’s legendary Five Spot club near Cooper Square. To round out the release, producer Keepnews included two outtakes from the Monk’s Music album recorded the previous month, and an additional outtake from Thelonious Himself recorded in April.[6] The latter selection, “Functional,” is a solo piano piece by Monk.

It was reissued in 2000 on Fantasy Records as part of its series for back catalogue using the JVC 20-bit K2 coding system. Because of the historical significance of this album it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.

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Universally regarded as one of the greatest collaborations between the two most influential musicians in modern jazz (Miles Davis notwithstanding), the Jazzland sessions from Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane should be recognized on other levels. While the mastery of the principals is beyond reproach, credit should also be given to peerless bassist Wilbur Ware, as mighty an anchor as anyone could want. These 1957 dates also sport a variety in drummerless trio, quartet, septet, or solo piano settings, all emphasizing the compelling and quirky compositions of Monk. A shouted-out, pronounced “Off Minor” and robust, three-minute “Epistrophy” with legendary saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Gigi Gryce, and the brilliant, underappreciated trumpeter Ray Copeland are hallmark tracks that every jazz fan should revere. Of the four quartet sessions, the fleet “Trinkle Tinkle” tests Coltrane’s mettle, as he’s perfectly matched alongside Monk, but conversely unforced during “Nutty” before taking off. Monk’s solo piano effort,

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“Functional,” is flavored with blues, stride, and boogie-woogie, while a bonus track, “Monk’s Mood,” has a Monk-Ware-Coltrane tandem (minus drummer Shadow Wilson) back for an eight-minute excursion primarily with Monk in a long intro, ‘Trane in late, and Ware’s bass accents booming through the studio. This will always be an essential item standing proudly among unearthed live sessions from Monk and Coltrane, demarcating a pivotal point during the most significant year in all types of music, from a technical and creative standpoint, but especially the jazz of the immediate future. (by Michael G. Nastos)

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Personnel:
John Coltrane (saxophone)
Thelonious Monk — piano
Wilbur Ware (bass)
Shadow Wilson (drums)
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Art Blakey — drums on 03. + 05.)
Ray Copeland (trumpet on 03. + 06.)
Gigi Gryce (saxophone on 03. + 06.)
Coleman Hawkins (saxophone on 03, + 06.)

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Tracklist:
01. Ruby, My Dear (Monk)  5.22
02. Trinkle, Tinkle (Monk) 6.41
03. Off Minor (Monk) 5.16
04. Nutty (Monk) 6.39
05. Epistrophy (Clarke/Monk) 3.10
06. Functional (Monk) 8.42

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Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane – At Carnegie Hall (1957 – 2005)

FrontCover1At Carnegie Hall is a live album by The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane.

It was recorded on 29 November 1957 at “Thanksgiving Jazz”, a benefit concert produced by Kenneth Lee Karpe for the Morningside Community Center in Harlem. Other acts performing included: Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Sonny Rollins, and Chet Baker with Zoot Sims. The recording, by Voice of America, documents two sets by the Monk Quartet with Coltrane that night – an early set (tracks 1-5) and a late set (tracks 6-9), which the recording does not fully document.

The tape was stored at the Library of Congress where it sat untouched, until 2005 when it was discovered by recording lab supervisor Larry Appelbaum. The recording was then restored by producer Michael Cuscuna and T.S. Monk (Thelonious Monk’s son).

The recording has been highly praised: Newsweek called it the “musical equivalent of the discovery of a new Mount Everest,” and Amazon.com editorial reviewer Lloyd Sachs called it “the ultimate definition of a classic”. Soon after its release, it became the #1 best selling music recording on Amazon.com.

The discovery substantially increased coverage of Monk and Coltrane’s partnership; the only other recordings known are The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings CD set (assembled from previously issued albums) and Discovery, believed to document a reunion at the Five Spot café in 1958, recorded on amateur equipment by Coltrane’s first wife. (by wikipedia)

Booklet15Larry Appelbaum, the recording lab supervisor at the Library of Congress, came across this tape by accident while transferring the library’s tape archive to digital. What a find. Forget the Five Spot recording that sounds like it was recorded inside of a tunnel from the far end. The sound here is wonderfully present and contemporary. More importantly, this band — which also included drummer Shadow Wilson and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik — had it right on November 29, 1957, at Carnegie Hall. The John Coltrane on this date is far more assured than he had been four months earlier on the Five Spot date and on the initial Prestige side Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane. He’d been with Monk for four months and had absorbed his complex, multivalent musical system completely. It’s clear from the opening track, “Monk’s Mood,” where the pair play in duet, that Coltrane is confident and moving into his own. Monk feels that confidence with his nearly Baroque entrance on the tune. This is a hard-swinging band with two front-line players who know how to get the best from one another. Coltrane knows the music inside out and his solos reflect an early version of his sheets of sound methodology. Check the joyous “Crepuscule with Nellie” for the hard evidence. Coltrane’s cue and Monk’s arpeggios are wondrous, swinging, and full of fire and joy. Trane’s fills on the melody that leads into his solo are simply revelatory, and the solo itself is brilliant. Or check Wilson’s cymbal work on “Nutty” before the band kicks it in full force. Even on the knottiest of Monk’s tunes, “Epistrophy,” Trane shines and takes charge of his instrument while being utterly receptive to the continual shape-shifting Monk put into his compositions in a live setting.

Booklet18There are nine tunes here (an incomplete version of “Epistrophy” finishes the set) taken from early and late performances. These 51 minutes of music leave the Live at the Five Spot date in the dust. This is one of those “historic” recordings that becomes an instant classic and is one of the truly great finds in jazz lore. It documents a fine band with its members at the peak of their powers together. The package also contains voluminous liner notes by the likes of Ira Gitler, Amiri Baraka, Ashley Khan, Stanley Crouch, and others. This is a must-have. (by Thom Jurek)

Live2L to R: John Coltrane, Shadow Wilson, Thelonious Monk and Ahmed Abdulmalik at the Five Spot, 1957

Personnel:
John Coltrane (saxophone)
Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass)
Thelonious Monk (piano)
Shadow Wilson (drums)

LiveTracklist:

Early Show:
01. Monk’s Mood (Monk) 7.52
02. Evidence (Monk) 4.41
03. Crepuscule With Nellie (Monk) 4.26
04. Nutty (Monk) 5.03
05. Epistrophy (Clarke/Monk) 4.29

Late Show:
06. Bye-Ya (Monk)
07. Sweet And Lovely (Daniels/Arnheim/Tobias) 9.34
08. Blue Monk (Monk) 6.32
09. Epistrophy (Incomplete) (Clarke/Monk) 2.24

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