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Monk leftovers


Guy Berger
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At the Blackhawk is a great one--probably my favourite Monk record. Harold Land and Joe Gordon keep things unpredictable and nice to hear Billy Higgins on drums.

The Newport 63 disc with Pee Wee Russell on two tracks is a keeper too. I love the version of "Criss Cross" that opens the concert (sans Russell).

Indeed a fine one! Haven't spun it in a while though...

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I vote against Italy and France, which I rate as my worst Monk albums.

If someone would like to suggest a Monk album he thinks is worse, I would be curious.

Here's my vote:

51zCZUa0daL._SS500_.jpg

Every tune at that same lethargic tempo...and then all those alternate takes...AAAARRRGHHH!

[

...

But as unfavored as this one, perhaps even a tad more so is:

33vf5hf.jpg

I mean, the Nelson album just bugs me. this one makes me mad & then puts me to sleep.

LOL, those are my only two Columbia Monks! Maybe that's why I've always thought that his Columbia albums were his worst.

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I never thought "Straight No Chaser" was any bad!

And funny enough, in the context of the 2CD set collecting all of Monk's Columbia solo material and including the full "Solo Monk", I found that one pretty good all of a sudden, too!

Japanese Folk Song on Straight No Chaser is one of my favorite Monk performances on Columbia.

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I am kind of stuck in a rut with Monk - I became obsessed (well, not quite...) with his stuff a few years ago and bought a load of his albums, and being pretty unknowledgeable about jazz found it difficult to find other stuff to slide into. - I tried Herbie Nichols cos I read that he shared certain characteristics, and I like him but...

The thing with Monk is that narrowness - or, his limits force the inventiveness along a narrow path, so it all feels very regular and yet jagged - like he's stuck behind a wall being built by the bass and drums, and he's jabbing at the wall but is in no danger of getting out. OR his playing sometimes reminds me of a join the dots puzzle - fixed points, and he draws straight lines between each one, not necessarily in the same order, but always finishes at the same point in the same number of moves. This feeling is strong on some of the Columbias. But when he had people like Johnny Griffin or Coltrane it's slightly different (and amazing! - I don't think I've ever enjoyed an album as much as I did 'Monk's Music'). And when you see footage of him it's even more mesmerizing - watching him 'decide' which keys to hit.

Probably the answer for me is to avoid looking for similar piano players and go for something else -

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I love the Blackhawk album. Monk with more horns that just Charlie Rouse is always interesting to me, and Harold Land give Rouse a run for his money at times. And it's the album I learned "Four in One" from. I like this one a lot.

The Italian and French concerts do have a bit of a "same old thing" feel, although the quartet does play some tunes ("Jackie-ing" and "San Francisco Holiday") that Monk neglected later. Monk is almost always good, but I'd say that these aren't essential.

And I like the addition of Pee Wee to the quartet at Newport, even though opinions are mixed as to whether it really worked. This is the most complete issue, and I like the 1965 set; even though it's "just" the quartet again, they're in good form.

Ditto on the Blackhawk and in particular the "Four in One" track, one of my very favorites. What's also wonderful about this live date is the presence of

Billy Higgins as well.

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(snip)

For the record, I like the France and Italy albums a lot - I think they are better that the Jazz Workshop and It Club recordings, mainly due to the presence of Frankie Dunlop on drums.

The mention of Dunlop on drums calls to mind the wonderful video - don't know if it's officially released on DVD yet - of the Monk quartet in a TV Studio in Tokyo in May, '63 wherein the viewer is treated not only to wonderful Monk but the sight of him in all of his eccentricities, e.g., the wearing of an overcoat in a hot TV studio, the constant resetting of a ring on one of his fingers while he plays a marvelous solo on the opening "Evidence", his attempts at what can be generously referred to as "dancing" while various others solo, etc. And Dunlop is superb. I know the music itself, which is excellent, has often be released on various bootleg LPs, then CDs, but it's the video that's well worth pursuing.

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OR his playing sometimes reminds me of a join the dots puzzle - fixed points, and he draws straight lines between each one, not necessarily in the same order, but always finishes at the same point in the same number of moves.

I really like this image.

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Well, some of the Newport 1958 includes Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, which makes that unique.

Right, Charles Ellsworth Russell appeared with Monk in '63, the earlier date is a Miles Davis Sextet appearance.

I'm very fond of this official release.

thelonius_monk_cd.jpg

It came out at one of the lowest points of my life and still cut through my haze and dazzled me.

Yes!! Get this one. IMHO it is a wonderful Monk recording, one of my favorites.

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On the subject of Monk in France and Monk in Italy, did anybody mention the sound quality of the cds? IIRC one had much worse sound than the other. I can dig it out and let you know which one.

I am not an audiophile, but I find the sound on both of those records to be excellent. They were professionally recorded. So was the great Stockholm concert from that tour, which has been available on bootlegs and was also released by T.S. Monk. The other concerts that I have hard from that tour were in markedly worse sound, but still enjoyable.

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Discography question: is the "At the Blackhawk" release the same stuff on the "Complete Riverside Recordings" box set, disc 13?

Without looking into the box set that I've had for many years, that sounds about right. Certainly, the entire original recording is included in the box as well as additional material from that engagement including at least one track where Shelly Manne is the drummer in place of Billy Higgins.

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They were professionally recorded. So was the great Stockholm concert from that tour, which has been available on bootlegs and was also released by T.S. Monk. The other concerts that I have hard from that tour were in markedly worse sound, but still enjoyable.

The Stockholm concert source was perfectly legitimate.

stockholm3.jpg

Source for the Dragon/DIW releases was The Swedish Radio.

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The playing is very good on Monk in France and Thelonious Monk in Italy, which I have on Original Jazz Classics from around 1991-1995, when I was buying stuff like this. For my ears, Thelonious Monk in Italy is just not as bright sounding. On Epistrophy, for illustration, it's noticeable that the drum and bass are more up front than the piano and saxophone. Just crank up your volume. Lots of good tunes in these sets! I would definitely not call these weak albums.

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They were professionally recorded. So was the great Stockholm concert from that tour, which has been available on bootlegs and was also released by T.S. Monk. The other concerts that I have hard from that tour were in markedly worse sound, but still enjoyable.

The Stockholm concert source was perfectly legitimate.

stockholm3.jpg

Source for the Dragon/DIW releases was The Swedish Radio.

That hardly means that the commercial release was legitimate, if the musicians agreed to be broadcast but didn't agree, and never got paid, for the sale of a commercial recording.

Or maybe when the World Series comes around, I should run my DVR then release my own DVD set. My source will be Fox Sports, and the players and MLB approved the broadcast of the games. Perfectly legitimate.

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Dan, have you seen the swedish contract? I haven't...

From what I know the estate of Miles Davis had a look in the matter after Dragon released the Miles Davis in Stockholm (with Trane/Stitt) 1960 concerts. The Dragon releases are still on sale! And still legitimate!

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I've read online (truthfully or not I can't say) that the Swedish radio broadcast payments included payment for the rights for possible later recording sales and that the lps and cds are therefore legitimate. As Brownie mentions, the Miles Davis set was new at a time when the Miles Davis estate was busy threatening law suits against all the Miles Davis bootlegs from Moon, JMY, etc. and all these bootlegs disappeared from the racks, but the Dragon remained, sanctioned so to speak, and even appeared in another edition from DIW. The Miles Dragon set is still available, and there were sets from Getz, Gillespie and others. If they weren't legitimate I think some or all of these would not have been released or long been around.

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My question would be, what is the position of Monk's son on their legitimacy? If the family says they are boots, I'm inclined to believe them.

As for Miles, why would the estate question the issue of the Stockholm recordings other than the fact it never saw any payment on it? If its a technicality - "commercial release not explicitly forbidden" - then I still say its not a legitimate release.

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Discography question: is the "At the Blackhawk" release the same stuff on the "Complete Riverside Recordings" box set, disc 13?

Without looking into the box set that I've had for many years, that sounds about right. Certainly, the entire original recording is included in the box as well as additional material from that engagement including at least one track where Shelly Manne is the drummer in place of Billy Higgins.

Thanks! :)

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I haven't seen a statement from T. S. M. Jr. about the Dragon release. I can think of several other reasons that he decided to release them under his own label, many persons looking for the Dragon unsuccessfully may have been eager to purchase a family release; I was one of those, I assure you. Wouldn't it be ironic if the contract for the Swedish Radio broadcast and recording session actually made the family releases the illegitimate ones?

I don't quite see your point on the Miles release but that's okay. I visibly saw all the Miles boots disappear from racks over the course of one year in the nineties. The Dragon didn't go away, and I honestly think that is because it was a legitimate release, or became one.

I guess we could agree to say both of our assumptions/educated guess-opinions have a chance of being actually true.

Edited by jazzbo
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Lucky you're focusing on official releases. The number of radio broadcasts and soundboards of Monk concerts that show up in the trading community and on sites like Dime is astounding.

And some are probably even better than some of the best released concerts.

There's an official one from Newport Jazz Festival 1959 available for $10 I think from Wolfgang's Vault. It's available in FLAC or MP3 format. I don't know if I'd call it essential but I think it's very good. Full Disclosure: I'm a big Monk fan.

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