Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thelonious Monk - The Thelonious Monk Orchestra At Town Hall (Riverside - RLP 12-300)

Thelonious Monk is undoubtedly one of the most important names in the history of Jazz since you don't get many pioneers like him. Not only did he create new styles of playing and musical alterations to the genre, he also taught many young artists who came to be legends of their own. This is not an easy concept after all. John Coltrane became the man he was heavily due to what he learned from Monk and the freedom Monk explained to him while they played together. I have also reviewed the result of their collaboration. Just listening to Coltrane's earlier records and that record would be enough. Later on Coltrane went on to create his own standards and mostly paved the way for Free Jazz.

Coming back to Monk, he was a mainly "band" type of guy. He never ever did play with an orchestra before this recording. He is as always known an experimenting person and this was a direct extension of what he was doing even though it was thought to be quite a dramatic move. Monk helped change the Jazz scene from swing to Bebop and this was also a structural change in the bands. Previously we were used to Duke Ellington and his orchestra, Harry James and his orchestra, Benny Goodman and his orchestra and so on. Now there were quartets, trios, quintets. Going back to the good old days with the modern musical understanding was an interesting move.

Yet it proved to be shockingly beautiful as can be excepted of Monk. To be honest, the people in his orchestra are enough to make life easy anyway. There is Donald Byrd on trumpet, Phil Woods on alto sax, Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, and Art Taylor on drums. Each have well established solos in the album with the most striking being Phil Woods' solo on "Friday The 13th".

The tracks on the album are of course a selection. UNFORTUNATELY! The newly (2006) released CD version includes 2 more tracks which is not just in all ways. This is also a performance which should be totally released on vinyl. Maybe some day it will. The beauty of the music is capturing. Although at some points Monk returns to the quartet style of playing, the change is obvious and monumental. The orchestration is helped by Hall Overton who was a Monk follower and a very talented musician at that time.

The selection of tracks start with a 1940's "Thelonious" which was already a classic on the day of the recording in 1959. Then comes "Friday The 13th" and "Monk's Mood" for the A side. To be honest, I was out of breath and words when I was listening the new version of Monk's Mood. It is absolutely brilliant. I honestly didn't want to turn the record over. However, I never thought the B side would be the same affectionate as well. The crown of the B side is inevitably "Off Minor". You just have to listen to the depths Monk goes and the orchestration is absolutely in accordance with the state of mind Monk's in. Great piece of art. Calling it music is not doing justice. The other beauties of this side are "Little Rootie Tootie" and "Crepescule With Nellie". Both are tracks from the end 50's and show the established side of Monk.

Thelonious Monk was not an early celebrity. He was ridiculed with his "out of technique" style of playing, different approach to Jazz and personal habits. However, after 15 years of hard work and financially unrewarding times, he became everyone's man in 6 months. How this change came and went is something I don't really know (Should read a book about it obviously), but luckily it did after all. He became more productive while he was profoundly productive even before so you can imagine how he was afterwards. He was appearing at a club almost every single night of the week, was sought after and collaborated with even more artists as times rolled along. This opened him vast areas of improving and inventing. This record encapsulates just one of the "moving a step ahead" style of interactions Monk has undertaken. I will also listen and write about Monk's enormous box set of "Complete Riverside Recordings 1956-1961" sometime soon. Until then this record is enough to keep some ears happy.

To buy this record:

@ Discogs
@ Music Stack
@ Ebay

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