435

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall

By

Sign in to view read count
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall Let's be clear from the start: this discovery of a new Monk/Coltrane live concert completely puts to shame the over-hyped Five Spot CD from years ago. Not only is the sound as sterling and clear as the sound on the Five Spot date was excretory, but the performances of the stars are light years beyond that muddy recording.

There is a sense that both Monk and Coltrane knew they were going to make history in 1957 at Carnegie Hall, and it's palpable from the opening notes of "Monk's Mood. Monk sounds grandly baroque in summoning grandly cascading arpeggios from his piano (which sounds infinitely better than the junk pianos he was often saddled with), while Coltrane sounds immensely assured.

To really savor Coltrane's performances, begin by listening to the studio session with Monk currently listed in the Fantasy catalog (Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane). Then listen to the Five Spot recording, and then this new discovery.

During the studio date, Coltrane sounds remarkably reserved, perhaps too star-struck still, as he was on his session with Duke Ellington, to do very much but hang on for the ride. The Five Spot recording has Coltrane sounding looser, particularly on "In Walked Bud, but the recording sounds like it was recorded at the wrong end of a mine shaft, and much of what Coltrane played has to be imagined. Coltrane at Carnegie Hall with Monk is a man certain of his own voice while not afraid of showing his roots, clear-thinking, wonderfully focused, in tune with Monk's logic, simpatico with the rhythm section. A case could be built that this is the finest Coltrane recording before the historic Atlantic and Impulse sessions.

High points among Coltrane's solos abound, but my favorites are on "Nutty, with some wild cross-conversations between Coltrane and Monk going on, and "Sweet and Lovely, which Coltrane gooses into a galloping romp, clearly revealing his roots in early Dexter Gordon. The only dull patch for me is his lackluster accompaniment to "Crepuscule With Nellie, which was never about Coltrane anymore than Nellie was. It was Monk's showcase, regardless of who accompanied him.

On to Monk. After the grand opening gestures, he continues with buoyant, hyper-kinetic interpretations of "Evidence, "Epistrophy" (two versions, the complete one perhaps the better of the two for Monk, the incomplete one more of a Coltrane showpiece), and "Blue Monk. Very familiar fare, but toyed with harmonically and rhythmically as only Monk could do on a good night, and this was. Drummer Shadow Wilson was no Art Blakey, whom I always thought of as Monk's most apt drummer, but he respectably kept the band churning, along with rock-steady bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik.

The only flaw, and a minor one at that, is the heavy set of liner notes by five different hands. Only Lewis Porter really says something that deepens appreciation of this lovely recording. Amiri Baraka and Stanley Crouch pass beyond self-parody. I suggest that their future liner notes be published as e-books, though even that format might not accommodate their stadium-sized egos.

This is, though Woody Allen hated the phrase, "jazz heaven.


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.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Blue Note Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "The Quest: Live at the A.P.C." CD/LP/Track Review The Quest: Live at the A.P.C.
by Jim Trageser
Published: February 14, 2017
Read "Real Feels - Live Vol. 1" CD/LP/Track Review Real Feels - Live Vol. 1
by Mark F. Turner
Published: December 13, 2016
Read "Black Orpheus" CD/LP/Track Review Black Orpheus
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 30, 2016
Read "New York Connections" CD/LP/Track Review New York Connections
by David A. Orthmann
Published: September 18, 2016
Read "OWT" CD/LP/Track Review OWT
by John Sharpe
Published: September 18, 2016
Read "Sputnik Stan Vol. 1: A Fistful Of Junk" CD/LP/Track Review Sputnik Stan Vol. 1: A Fistful Of Junk
by Jack Gold-Molina
Published: March 1, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!