Friday, February 26, 2010

Thelonious MONK – Monk In France 1961

Thelonious MONK – Monk In France 1961
Recorded live at the Olympia, Paris, France on April 18, 1961
1991 Issue


One of his last records for Riverside, this live recording from his European tour (cut in France in 1961) finds Monk and his quartet in fine fettle. The program offers originals interspersed with standards, such as "Body and Soul" and "Just A Gigolo," both of which Monk plays unaccompanied and with notable, quirky brilliance. The live tracks, which include original favorites "Well, You Needn't" and "Crespuscule With Nellie," focus not only on the stringent jump-cut melodies and spiralling lines of Monk, but also on his combo.

Saxophonist Charlie Rouse seems to be in particularly fine form in these recordings, branching out in his solos in "Well, You Needn't" and "Off Minor." Bassist John Ore also contributes a fine syncopated chord-strum solo in "Well, You Needn't." There seems to be a unique tension in the vigorous, uptempo playing from the whole band, which adds a kind of dynamism without distracting from the swing. Overall, MONK IN FRANCE is a strong disc: great performances of outstanding tunes heightened by the energy of a live concert.
In 1961, Thelonious Monk and his quartet toured Europe, producing a series of live albums for various labels. The First European Concert, as well as recordings of Monk in Paris, Italy, Bern, Copenhagen, and Stockholm all date from that year. The performances drew almost exclusively from a body of the pianist's best-loved original material, and Monk in France is no exception. While his playing here is less energized than it can be, Monk's singular philosophy is well intact. The pianist's lines are sparse and fluid. Characteristically, he maps out only the necessary notes in his off-kilter melodies, building solos from perfectly balanced melodic/rhythmic motifs. The European touring lineup is completed by drummer Frankie Dunlop, bassist John Ore, and tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. Rouse had joined Monk two years earlier, replacing Johnny Griffin on 1959's Evidence. He has a vibrant tone and fluid rhythmic sense best heard here on "I Mean You." Monk's responding solo seems slightly reserved, the fire and weight of his attack largely absent. The remaining two-thirds of the rhythm section, while accomplished, do little to drive him in that direction. Performing solo, Monk's reading of the standards "Body and Soul" and "Just a Gigolo" are two highlights. The former features the sort of ornate playing uncharacteristic of the date. Monk spins off dense lines that take many listens to untangle. The latter is given a brief rendition tinged with ringing dissonance. The 1960s would see Monk signing to Columbia Records, where he would release another string of excellent recordings like Monk's Dream, Criss Cross, and Solo Monk. Monk in France represents a pleasant but unessential sidetrack in the pianist's output.
By Nathan Bush, All Music Guide.
Thelonious Monk (piano);
Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone);
John Ore (bass);
Frankie Dunlop (drums).
01. Well, You Needn’t (Monk) 1131
02. Off Minor (Monk) 1142
03. Just a Gigolo (Brammer, Caesar, Casucci) 143
04. I Mean You (Hawkins, Monk) 1102
05. Hackensack (Monk) 946
06. I’m Getting Sentimental over You (Bassman, Washington) 831
07. Body and Soul (Eyton, Green, Heyman, Sour) 248
08. Crepuscule With Nellie (Monk) 239


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