Monk In Paris: Live At the Olympia, recorded on March 7, 1965, is the second release for Thelonious Records. Formed by Monk's son, drummer T.S. Monk, Dr. Peter Grain and Hyena Records' Joel Dorn, the label made its debut with T.S. Monk's 2003 record, Higher Ground. The new label will be a vehicle for his own recordings as well as for private recordings by his father.
The first of these private gems finds Monk in Paris with his quartet of Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, Larry Gales on bass, and Ben Riley on drums. The output, as usual for this group, is superb. Though the band performs from the usual stock of Monk compositions, there is an undeniable excitement propelling these otherwise common tunes into new avenues of enthusiasm. Fueled in part by the extremely eager Parisian crowd, the men take advantage of the unrestrained live setting to fully display their individual skills, especially Charlie Rouse and Ben Riley. The real treats, though, are in the consistent exchange and dynamic interplay between the band members on tunes like "Rhythm- A-Ning," "Well You Needn't," "Bright Mississippi," and "Epistrophy."
Contrasting the quartet work are two delightful, solo pieces by Monk, "Body and Soul" and "April In Paris." Though each is brief, the pieces expose often-neglected aspects of Monk's playing, as he carries these classic melodies with careful, tender precision. Credit should also go to the remastering efforts of Gene Paul for making a nearly forty-year-old concert sound as fresh as it does here.
As if all this were not enough, the new label completely wins us over with a bonus DVD of the same Monk quartet live, a year later, in Oslo, Norway. Claiming that, "You have not heard Monk until you've seen Monk," the DVD has the quartet performing three songs, "Lulu's Back In Town," "Blue Monk," and "Round Midnight." Though the sound quality is not as good as on the CD, the picture is clear and, more importantly, it allows fans of all ages to witness this great quartet in action.
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Personnel: Thelonius Monk- piano; Charlie Rouse- tenor saxophone; Larry Gales-bass; Ben Riley- drums