Album Review: Thelonious Monk – Mønk

Thelonious Monk

Mønk

(Gearbox CD 1841)

 

Live recordings are a precious part of any Jazz collection. If the recording quality is good and the performance outstanding you have a gem to treasure. This session in Copenhagen in 1963 certainly deserves that description. I heard this quartet at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester in 1961. Several memories were aroused. On that evening I was very surprised by the choice of drummer. Having heard lots of Art Blakey with Monk, I suppose I was expecting the Blakey sound. Frankie Dunlop was very powerful, quite loud for a quartet and hard to ignore! Comparing my memories with this concert made me realise how much he lifted the quartet and brought out the tougher side of Monk’s playing.

The Leicester Concert and this one in Copenhagen come from a period of about four years when Monk was consolidating his reputation. In the 1950s his music was heard, argued over and finally recognised. Now he could take it to a world-wide audience. He was lucky to be able to persuade a saxophonist of Charlie Rouse’s calibre to tour with him. Even more lucky because Charlie was fully committed to playing Monk’s music. In Dunlop and Ore he recruited a strong rhythm team.

The playlist here gives an excellent sample of Monk’s music played with power and imagination. The popular standard, Getting Sentimental begins with Monk presenting the pared-down melody to lead to some powerful phrases from Charlie and a subtler piano solo. Monk’s solo version of Body and Soul is exceptional – one of the best live recordings of his piano style. Nutty is an object lesson in how to sustain a powerful medium tempo and build with it; each musician making an important contribution. All five titles must rank with the best recordings of these tunes.

 

[My review is based on the standard CD issue 1841. The concert recording is an important discovery by Gearbox, who bought it from a Danish producer who found it in a skip. They are releasing a deluxe collector’s edition of 500 copies of the vinyl version  with a special print by Valerie Wilmer. There will also be a standard vinyl version.]

 

Peter Batten

 

The Thelonious Monk Quartet live in Copenhagen, 1963.

Bye-Ya, Nutty, Getting Sentimental over You, Body and Soul, Monk’s Dream.

Thelonious Monk, piano; Charlie Rouse, tenor sax; John Ore, bass; Frankie Dunlop, drums