In the same year that Thelonious Monk appeared on the cover of Time Magazine
, he recorded several live sessions for Columbia. This 2-CD set features two and a half hours at San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop, recorded November 3rd and 4th, 1964 with his working quartet. Nearly half the reissue consists of previously unreleased material. The rest, of course, was originally issued on two LPs in the 1980s as Columbia C2 38269 with the same title. Thus, this reissue comes to us as a piece of history, documenting Monk’s quartet on two consecutive nights in a live setting. While the sound outside of a studio session isn’t all that terrific, it does include some of the “atmosphere” small talk and reveals a personal glimpse at the quartet, “warts and all.”
Typically, Monk plays the introduction himself. He sets a gentle mood and expresses light motion. The room’s coughing and animated conversation shows up during these calmer moments. But once the trio joins Monk, there’s no room for other sounds. Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales and Ben Riley build a fire that never dies down. Each artist solos on occasion; both Monk and Rouse take the front line. The repetition that exists among song titles comes simply from the fact that Monk chose to perform some of the same selections on the second night. The versions are equivalent, but changes make them of value to the listener. The previously unreleased version of “Bright Mississippi,” for example, is nearly three times as long as that issued and provides much more for the listener. There are no differences in sound between previously released material and unissued versions. It was simply the producer’s decision to release what became the original package. Neither “Bemsha Swing” nor “Nutty” appeared on the original, but they both turn up here. Both are marvelous takes. And the Jazz Workshop audience loved them as well. Highly recommended, this reissue-plus makes a valuable addition to one’s collection.