TWOHOURS WITH THELONIOUS
EUROPEAN CONVERTS BY THE THELONIOUS MONK
Thelonious Monk Quartet: Charlie Rouse (ts) Thelonious Monk (p)
John Ore (b) Frankie Dunlop (drs)
Pairs; April 18 & Milan; April 21, Spring; 1961
1. Epistrophy (6:16) RLP-460
2. I Mean You (10:59) -
3. Jackie-ing (10:08) -
4. Body and Soul (4:48) (1) -
1. Off Minor (11:39) RLP-461
2. April in Paris (1:20) (1) -
3. Rhythm-A-Ning (10:34) -
4. Body and Soul (4:48) (1) -
1. Milan Introduction and … Jackie-Ing (4:50) RLP-461
2. Straight No Chaser (6:05) -
3. Bemsha Swing (6:05) -
4. Just A Gigolo (1:41) (1) -
5. Hackensack (9:45) -
1. Well You Needn’t (11:27) RLP-460
2. San Francisco Holiday (5:57) -
3. Ehythm-A Ning (no. 2) (5:47) -
4. Crepescule with Nellie (2::49) -
5. Epistrophy (closing theme) ‘4:58) -
It is perhaps appropriate but certainly rather frustrating that so much of the career of Thelonious Monk can be considered as a study in maladjustments of time. It has either been a matter of Thelonious getting somewhere long before his audience was ready for him (which would describe his early 1940s work at Minton’s as one of the pioneers of the strange new music called “be-bop,” the initial belittling attitude of most critics towards his role in the formation f this new jazz, and the long wait into the mid-1950s before he met with any broad jazz-public acceptance) or – quite conversely – a matter of an audience waiting for a very long time for Thelonious to arrive.
This second category is not reckoned in anything like minutes of waiting for a set to begin on any given night. Hardly that, for from 1948 to 1957, Monk made no New York night club appearances whatsoever. This was partly because there was no great clamor by club-owners for this “far-out” performer, partly because he was for some of this time in a rather inward-turned or hibernation period – but mostly because of the very strange regulations of certain departments of the city and state of New York, which made it necessary for us to be safeguarded from appearances by Monk (who had served less than three months worth of time for a commensurable minor violation of law back at the start of this time period). When it finally became possible for Thelonious to pursue his career in alcohol-serving places, some feared that the unintentional build-up created by his long absence from the every-night scene might work against him: that the legend of Monk-the-odd-genius might make Monk the flesh-and-blood artist a disappointment.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Not only did Thelonious possess enough authentic eccentricity (his hats, beard, little dance steps on the bandstand, etc.) to satisfy the curious, but he demonstrated quickly enough that he had a wealth of music to offer. The real Monk was worth the waiting for, and in quartets featuring a variety of highly talented tenor players – John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins (briefly) – Johnny Griffin – he firmly established that fact.
Meanwhile, as has so often been the case with artistly that this country has been slow to recognize, the jazz genius of Thelonious Monk had long been hailed in several European countries. His compositions, his recordings, his overall importance as pianist, composer, pioneer and influence all these had been written about by European critics and accepted by knowledgeable jazz enthusiasts in France, England, Italy Scandinavia, Germany. But once again circumstances – this time largely a matter of his own diffidence, plus probably some reluctance on the part of promoters who had heard all those “odd genius” stories – kept delaying the long-awaited event.
It was not until April of 1961 that Monk finally crossed the Atlantic. Once again, there was a happy ending. To the packed houses that awaited him in several countries, Thelonious was everything his audiences had hoped for. He made the trip with what was by then a solidly unified group – Charlie Rouse on tenor sax (that instrument remaining Monk’s almost inevitably choice as the horn for a quartet alignment), Joh Ore on bass and Frankie Dunlop on drums; men who had been with him for just about a year by then. They played “standard” Monk representation of what went on everywhere, and there are no brand-new tunes and (except for the omission of such most-famous originals as ‘Round Midnight and Ruby, My Dear) no real surprises. But this does not mean that things were at all dull:
For one thing, one of Monk’s most intriguing musical characteristics is his ability to vary and adapt the performance of a number to fit not only the instrumentation but the specific personnel. Performance would seem to be a sort of live arrangement for Thelonious – a point that he demonstrates a half-dozen different times on these discs. Thus, Rhythm-a-ning was first recorded by Monk with a quartet that included Gerry Mulligan; San Francisco Holiday was originally performed (under the title Worry Later) at sextet night-club recording date; Jackie-ing was first done by a quintet; Crepescule by a seven pieces group. Unless you have heard them payed, not only by a quartet, but by this Monk quartet, you rally haven’t heard them before.
For that matter, even then they would not be exactly repetitions. For Monk rarely repeats himself (no man, no matter who, never repeats himself). And like many jazz artists, he is greatly spurred by a responsive crowd. It is a major factor in these recordings that he is constantly being greeted by the whoops and fervent applause of his first European audiences. Eight of these selections were taped, as indicated, in Milan-at the Teatro Lirico, on April 21. The others were cut at Paris concerts shortly before that. Three numbers are heard twice: Epistrophy, Monk’s long-time theme, both opens and closes the proceedings; Rhythm-a-ning gest a very different an d much less extended treatment in Milan; the very exciting Jackie-ing (its odd title, incidentally, simply derives from the name of niece of Monk’s), well-played in Paris, springs forth out of the opening announcement in Milan with such a booting surge as to make it a natural opener for the second half of our recorded concert here.
Thelonious has appeared on Riverside in many settings in the recording studio with groups ranging in size front one (himself alone) to seven; in night club performance, on a New York concert stage with his quartet; before audiences getting their first remarkable in-person exposure to the music of Thelonious; and in a full-scale two album presentation for it would have seemed an unpardonable stinginess to have offered you less than all that was available of this event! Here , as always, is Monk the artist and Monk the entertainer- in simultaneous and an enjoyable listening experience. But it is a particular treat to be able to hear Thelonious being so deeply and so thoroughly enjoyed by this audience, It is, as I have said, a rather incredible maladjustment of time that it should have taken so many years for this avid audience to get to see-and-hear this man. But the wait would not seem to have been in vain. As was the case when Thelonious first became available o audiences at New York’s Five Spot Café in ’57, he was able to satisfy even these super-whetted appetites. It was, as I noted earlier, truly a happy ending.
MONK’s Riverside album include –
Thelonious Monk at the Blackhawk (323; stereo 1171)
Thelonious Alone in San Francisco (312; stereo 1158)
Five by Monk by Five (305; stereo 1150)
Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall (300; stereo 1138)
Misterioso (279; stereo 1133)
Thelonious in Action (262; stereo 1190)
Mulligan Meets Monk – with Gerry Mulligan (247; stereo 1106)
Monk’s Music (242; stereo 1102)
Thelonious Himself (235)
Brilliant Corners (226; stereo 1174)
The Unique Thelonious Monk (209)
Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington (201)
NOTE: (1) piano solo
Album design: Ken Deardoff.
Produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.