‘Monk’ – Lost Thelonious Monk Live Recording from 1963 Latest in Lost Albums to Surface (ALBUM REVIEW)

This is a year to see lost albums resurface mysteriously in a few genres now. Of course, John Coltrane made the biggest splash with June’s “Both Directions at Once.” Now we have what some have referred to as the third member of jazz’s ‘holy trinity’ (Miles, Trane, Monk) follow with a lost live recording from that same year, 1963. This is from Copenhagen with Monk’s most critically acclaimed quartet and it features five Monk classics including the well-known “Nutty” and “Monk’s Dream.”

This quartet features Charlie Rouse on tenor, bassist John Ore (who later played with Sun Ra), and drummer Frankie Dunlop. Monk, of course, was not only one of jazz’s most storied composers in jazz and still has perhaps the most unpredictable, rhythmic, and zany piano style in the history of the instrument. Yes, that’s saying quite a bit but here, given the opportunity to stretch out, he makes that case emphatically. Not only that, but as you listen to the other soloists, Monk’s flair for accompaniment is virtually unmatched too. This is indeed Monk in his prime, a year before he became one of only four jazz artists to ever appear on the cover of Time magazine.

The album begins with “Bye Ya,” featuring strong ensemble work, soloing from both Rouse and Monk.  The shifting dynamics and unpredictable turns would pose a steep challenge for most rhythm sections, but Ore and Dunlop are intimately familiar with both soloists and support them admirably. “Nutty” is one of Monk’s most enduring melodies, handled here with valued use of space, and relaxed playing. The other tunes, Side B if you will, are the standards “I Get Sentimental Over You” and “Body and Soul” as well as “Monk’s Dream.” The sound quality is amazingly pristine, making this a special treat for audiophiles, historians, and music fans who may pay more attention to Monk, given the sound quality and the tight, improvisational nature of this date.

As with any lost album, the story needs telling. Darrel Sheinman of Gearbox Records, the issuer, recounts, “The original tape was a Scotch broadcast tape amongst a collection of delights we bought from a Danish producer who had literally picked them from a skip (aka dumpster) some 20 years ago. He was going to use them to sample and remix during the acid jazz heyday but didn’t have time.” He goes to talk about the long process; clearing the Monk-related rights issues and then to create a special all-analog recording which is analog all the way from the source to the stock on the shelf. AAA: means Analog recording, Analog mix, Analog master – no digital in the path. Hence, the clarity of this disc.

Liner notes are from both Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus notoriety and jazz writer Stephen Graham. The record will be pressed on audiophile, transparent vinyl and comes in a vintage style tip-on, hand-numbered sleeve.  There will also be a standard vinyl/CD as well as digital streaming. It would be difficult to imagine anyone without at least one Monk recording in their collection. Regardless, collectors and first-timers should both gravitate quickly to this one.

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