272

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall

David Rickert By

Sign in to view read count
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall Thelonious Monk's quartet with John Coltrane was one of the greatest groups in the history of jazz, but most of us have only been able to take other people's word for it. The group's reputation rests mostly on its live performances at the Five Spot, of which only an amateur recording of poor quality exists, and the musicians only entered the studio once to record a handful of tracks. Thus those who listen avidly to both Monk and Trane but missed their brief time working together could only really speculate about how great this band really was.

That is, until now. Larry Applebaum, a jazz specialist for the Library of Congress, came upon this recording by accident while digitally transferring the Library's catalog. The music, which came from a Voice of America broadcast from Carnegie Hall, was improperly labeled and gave little indication of what it was: a definitive concert by two jazz giants with excellent sound.

Simply put, this is an instant classic: 51 minutes of Monk and Coltrane playing together, at home in each other's company after having played together for four months. Thus we don't have the tentativeness from Coltrane that dogged earlier recordings, when he was still figuring out a way to navigate the nooks and crannies of Monk's melodies.

The Carnegie Hall concert shows a Coltrane who now solos boldly, able to apply his sheets of sound approach to blanket Monk's jagged accompaniment. Even the most obtuse of Monk's tunes, like "Epistophy, give him little trouble, and it's easy to hear why the pianist had such an pivotal role in Coltrane's development. Monk was a workout for anyone who had the opportunity to gig with him, but Coltrane used his time with him to hone his craft and start the melodic quest that would occupy him for the rest the year. Monk, of course, plays in his usual flat-fingered approach, delighted to have a soloist who could keep up. The level of playing is consistently high throughout as the quartet works through the kinds of Monk tunes that we all wanted to hear Coltrane tackle.

Monk and Coltrane have a marquee value that will inevitably make this a jazz disc for people who don't own much jazz (after all, only the zealots get excited about stuff like Passing Ships). But for most of us, this is about as close to a Holy Grail as we're going to get. It's hard to believe that anyone interested in jazz won't be checking this one out. An early candidate for disc of the year.


Track Listing: Monk's Mood; Evidence; Crepuscule With Nellie; Nutty; Epistrophy; Bye-Ya; Sweet & Lovely; Blue Monk; Epistrophy (incomplete).

Personnel: Thelonious Monk: piano; John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Ahmed Abdul-Malik: bass; Shadow Wilson: drums.

Title: At Carnegie Hall | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Lantern CD/LP/Track Review Lantern
by John Kelman
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Unification CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read "Heaven" CD/LP/Track Review Heaven
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: June 19, 2017
Read "Intenso!" CD/LP/Track Review Intenso!
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 7, 2016
Read "Vanheusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen" CD/LP/Track Review Vanheusenism: A Tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 4, 2016
Read "Twin Talk" CD/LP/Track Review Twin Talk
by Mark F. Turner
Published: September 19, 2016
Read "The Drive" CD/LP/Track Review The Drive
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 16, 2016
Read "Ready Take One" CD/LP/Track Review Ready Take One
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 13, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.