THELONIOUS MONK Quartet Plus Two at the Blackhawk
Joe Gordon (tp) Charlie Rouse (ts) Harold Land (ts) Thelonious Monk (p) John Ore (b) Billy Higgins (drs)
'live' at The Blackhawk, San Francisco; April 29, 1960
Let’s Call This (8:32) (Thelonious Monk)
Four in One (8:37) (Thelonious Monk)
I’m Getting Sentimental Over You (6:07) (Washington –Bassman)
Worry Later (9:09) (Thelonious Monk)
‘Round Midnight (12:06) (Monk – Williams)
Epistrophy (closing theme) (2:00) (Thelonious Monk)
Here, once again, is THELONIOUS MONK. And (as it should almost be unnecessary to add) here once again is a different kind of Monk album.
The artistry of Thelonious seems to have an almost infinite number of facets, each with its own fascination and power. Each of his many recordings offers some combination of several (but never all) of these facets, so that every Monk album gives some glimpse of the complex and surging nature of his nature, while none of them can show the total picture. This is of course all to the good: too many jazz musicians (as well as performers and creators in may other fields) show it to us again and again – possibly deepening and maturing, but inevitably repeating themselves at least somewhat and therefore becoming at least somewhat less surprising, challenging, or interesting. But the artist who can never be considered completely knowable or predictable always retains a touch of magic. He is a wizard, a poet, and so we always turn to his latest effort with a thrill of anticipation and wonder.
This album is, in sequence, the twelfth Monk album for Riverside. This dozen cover a range from solo performance to bid band, and in virtually every case they are distinctive and different – from each other and form what anyone else would have done in a similar setting. The cover picture of his Brilliant Corners album, which by use of mirrors showed five images of Thelonious, would to have considerably understated the case!
The occasion of this LP was Monk’s second visit to San Francisco, a city that appears to have a particularly stimulating e”ect upon those who otherwise seem to feel that New York is the only place in which an artist can function. On his precious trip West, in October of 1959, he had recorded a reflective and moody solo piano album. This time he took his current Quartet; added two of the most impressive horn men available on the West Coast, imported up from Los Angeles; and placed the group in what was his habitat during his three weeks in San Francisco: The Blackhawk, one of the country’s top jazz rooms (and, incidentally but quite happily, one of the very best in which to record.)
The result is, as suggested at the start of these notes, an album that displays brilliantly and evocatively several different facets of Monk – several aspects of his artistry and his magic.
First of all, it is evident here that Thelonious is a swinger, that (particularly when working in direct contact with a room-filling audience) he is a robust and exciting pianist, a superior showman, and a leader who infects his associates with the same lusty fervor.
Furthermore, he has a highly intriguing knack for selecting and blending sidemen. Facing the idea of using residents of the West in combination with his own Easterners as a natural enough device for a California record date, he came up with trumpeter JOE GORDON and tenor HAROLD LAND. Admittedly both Gordon (who is Boston-born, worked with a Dizzy Gillespie big band and has most recently been featured with Shelly Manne) and Land (who played alongside the late Clifford Brown in Max Roach’s Quintet) are Westerners only by virtue of having lived there for the past few years. But these were men who had never before worked with Thelonious and sure enough, through the not-unexpected Monk alchemy, both men turned out to be readily and swiftly adaptable to the Monk mold. Both play here in a vein that fits superbly the leader’s unique and paradoxical jazz concepts (what other word than “paradoxical suits a music that simultaneously gives an impression of both richness and angularity?), and both are lifted to some mightily impressive solo work. And if I didn’t give away the secret here, I wonder how many listeners could figure that, after only limited rehearsal, Land and Gordon were added to the Monk Quartet on the Blackhawk bandstand for this one night only.
Also impressive are the efforts of the regulars. CHARLIE ROUSE, a long-underrated tenor man who has been making lengthy strides during the invaluable schooling of work with Monk, is in top form. Bassist JOHN ORE lays down a firm foundation, and there is a rally dynamic drive supplied by drummer BILLY HIGGINS, another West Coaster and recently added to Monk’s group after having played with Ornette Coleman.
As Always, there is on this album much evidence of the composer-arranger facets of Thelonious. The three-horn lineup is large enough to express his ideas of musical colorations and small enough for loose-limbed blowing, while the unusual two-tenors-and-trumpet instrumentation is one that has long intrigued Monk, although he had not preciously recorded with such a combination.
In this framework he presents one brand-new and typically intriguing figure (Worry Later); two relatively unfamiliar items taken from the apparently inexhaustible storehouse of tunes that Thelonious has written in the past but hasn’t played in recent years (Let’s Call This and Four in One – the latter employing two-tenor unison in its melody choruses); and one of those infrequent Monk realigning of an old standard (a steaming version of Getting Sentimental Over You that is a far, far cry from Tommy Dorsey). Also, there is a leisurely exploration of the famous ‘Round Midnight, surely one of the most beautiful melodies ever created, which others have recorded innumerable times, but preciously performed by Monk on Riverside only as a piano solo (in RLP 12-235) and on tour-de force collaboration with Gerry Mulligan (RLP 12-247). Finally: for purposes of solo identification, note that Rouse is the first tenor soloist on all tracks except Getting Sentimental (and, on that tune and ‘Round Midnight, he plays the melody lead), and Land does not solo on Getting Sentimental.
Other Riverside albums by Monk include –
The THELONIOUS MONK Orchestra at Town Hall (RLP 12-300; also Stereo RLP 1138)
Mulligan Meets Monk – with GERRY MULLIGAN (RLP 12-247; also Stereo RLP 1106)
Five by Monk by five; with Thad Jones (RLP 12-305; also Stereo RLP 1150)
Thelonious Alone in San Francisco: solo piano (RLP 12-311; also Stereo RLP 1158)
Monk’s Music: with John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins (RLP 12-242; also Stereo RLP 1102)
Brilliant Corners: with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach (RP 12-226; also Stereo RLP 1174)
Miserioso (RLP 12-279; also Stereo RLP 1133) and Thelonious in Action (RLP 12-262): THELOINOUS MONK Quartet, with Johnny Griffin
Thelonious Himself: solo piano (RLP 12-235)
The Unique THELONIOUS MONK (RLP 12-209)
THELONIOUS MONK plays Duke Ellington; (RLP 12-201)
(The present album is also available in Stereophonic form on RLP 1171)
Produced and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Recording Engineers: RAY FOWLER and REICE HAMEL
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GARUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.