Monday, January 11, 2010

Thelonious MONK - Live at the It Club 1964

Thelonious MONK - Live at the It Club 1964
1998 Issue. SRCS 8736-7


Recorded over two evenings in Los Angeles in 1964 and arranged in order, this recording presents the great Thelonious Monk at the peak of his considerable talents--and with his most enduring sidemen, including saxophonist Charlie Rouse and drummer Ben Riley. This version also restores 11 (!) cuts to their entirety (previous versions edited or offered shortened bass and drum solos). Aside from the now-complete versions of the set's songs, this It Club also offers three previously unreleased songs ("Teo," "Bright Mississippi," and "Just You, Just Me") and 20-bit digital remastering. The result is perhaps as close as we can come to a great-sounding complete show by one of the most fertile minds in the history of jazz. While not one of Monk's wilder live sessions, this set nonetheless effortlessly communicates the pianist's offbeat genius. From the first note, the sound (which thanks to the remaster, begs for high volume) is classic Monk: inquisitive right-hand chord exploration, thundering left-hand exclamations, and intoxicating runs up and down the keyboard fly from his fingers while the band gives him enough room so that every thought, strategy, and wild hare is allowed to range free. Highlights include an exquisitely gorgeous "I'm getting Sentimental over You", a spicy "Rhythm-A-Ning," and an uptempo "Bright Mississippi." With excellent liner notes by Bob Blumenthal and some new photos, this package rates as a must-buy for all Monkophiles.
By S. Duda.
On Halloween of 1964, Thelonious Monk's quartet (Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums) had been together a little more than six months (although Rouse had been with Monk for several years prior and Riley had been with him for about a year; additionally Riley and Gales had played together in "Lockjaw" Davis' band)-- it'd be over two years before any of the group would leave Monk. During this window, a number of superb recordings were made, but I'd assert that "Live at the It Club" is best of them.

The band was an fire-- their interaction managed during these shows to strike a great balance between tight interaction and looseness. Rouse and Monk had reached a level of near-psychic interaction, with the tenor man's almost brittle tone and tight theme-based improv providing a perfect opportunity for Monk's sort of frantic accompaniment to settle. In Larry Gales, Monk had a bassist who managed to strike the fine balance between prodding and supporting, weaving between holding down the fort and responding to the leader. And while common wisdom states that Art Blakey was the perfect drummer for Monk, I'd assert that Ben Riley was in fact Monk's best drum partner-- his performance is sensitive, laid back, and inventive, by and large lacking in flash but at the same time being perfecty Monkish.

The performance covers six sets over two nights-- October 31 and November 1-- omitting one performance that evidentally had a serious tape flaw and excess "Epistrophy" theme statements (Monk ended each show with this). In addition, producer Teo Macero's edits, done to support the limited time allowed on the LP format-- have been undone and the complete performances are allowed to breathe. The resulting sets are superb-- Monk mixes favorites with more obscure cuts, the performances throughout are amazing. Particular highlights are an excited and somewhat moody take of "Well, You Needn't", an ecstatic reading of "Bemsha Swing", and a superb take of the rarely heard "Gallop's Gallop", where Rouse really gets to show his inventiveness. But the truth is there's not a bad performance on the set.

In addition to being a great performance for fans, this may be a great place for newcomers to start, it really is a fine performance. Highly recommended.
By  Michael Stack.
Charlie Rouse- (Tenor SaMonk-
Thelonious Monk- (Piano)
Larry Gales- (Bass)
Ben Riley- (Drums)
01. Blue Monk  11:21
02. Well, You Needn't  9:17
03. Round Midnight  6:32
04. Rhythm-A-Ning  10:09
05. Blues Five Spot  10:13
06. Bemsha Swing  8:34
07. Evidence  8:37
08. Nutty  10:48
09. Epistrophy (Theme)  1:00

01. Straight, No Chaser  7:16
02. Teo  10:54
03. I'm Getting Sentimental Over You  12:28
04. Misterioso  8:22
05. Gallop's Gallop  5:16
06. Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are  9:01
07. Bright Mississippi  9:47
08. Just You, Just Me  6:14
09. All The Things You Are  6:40
10. Epistrophy (Theme)  1:09
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