April 25, 2005


A Jazz Discovery Adds a New Note to the Historical Record (BEN RATLIFF, 4/25/05, NY Times)

[N]ow this: tapes bearing nearly a full hour of the Thelonious Monk quartet with John Coltrane, found at the Library of Congress in January. The library made the announcement this month.

The tapes come from a concert at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 29, 1957, a benefit for a community center. The concert was recorded by the Voice of America, the international broadcasting service, and the tapes also include sets by the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, Ray Charles with a backing sextet, the Zoot Sims Quartet with Chet Baker, and the Sonny Rollins Trio. (Newspaper accounts of the concert indicate that Billie Holiday appeared as well, though she is not on the Voice of America tapes.)

But it is Monk with Coltrane that constitutes the real find. That band existed for only six months in 1957, mostly through long and celebrated runs at the East Village club the Five Spot. During this period, Coltrane fully collected himself as an improviser, challenged by Monk and the discipline of his unusual harmonic sense. Thus began the 10-year sprint during which he changed jazz completely, before his death in 1967. The Monk quartet with Coltrane did record three numbers in a studio in 1957, but remarkably little material, and only with fairly low audience-tape fidelity, is known to exist from the Five Spot engagement.

The eight and a half Monk performances found at the Library of Congress, by contrast, are professionally recorded, strong and clear; you can hear the full dimensions of Shadow Wilson's drum kit and Ahmed Abdul-Malik's bass. It is certainly good enough for commercial release, though none has yet been negotiated.

How about in time for Christmas?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2005 7:35 AM
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