9

Thelonious Monk: Newport '59

Mark Corroto By

Sign in to view read count
Thelonious Monk: Newport '59 Only with hindsight can it be ascertained that 1959 marked the pinnacle of jazz music as a cultural force in the United States. In 1959, the Mount Rushmore presidents of jazz were recording their definitive statements: John Coltrane's Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1960), Dave Brubeck's Time Out (Columbia, 1959), Charles Mingus' Ah Um (Columbia, 1959), Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue (Columbia, 1959) and Ornette Coleman's The Shape Of Jazz To Come (Atlantic, 1959).

That year also signaled the upcoming split of allegiances for the post-World War II generations between jazz and the baby boomers' rock 'n' roll. At the center of this massive year was Thelonious Monk, a pianist at the zenith of his career. He had been championed by Alfred Lion on his small Blue Note Records label in the early 1940s, then recorded for Prestige and Riverside Records. This year included his famous Town Hall concert, a 10-piece presentation of his compositions and the pianist's partnership with saxophonist Charlie Rouse, which lasted for nearly sixteen years. Soon he would be signed to the behemoth Columbia Records and appear on the cover of Time Magazine. However, it can be argued, all of this served as a postscript to his musical masterwork.

Although pieces of this performance have been floating around as bootlegs, hearing Monk in full flight at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1959, playing the now-familiar tunes, is a rediscovery of his genius. This release, part of a Wolfgang's Vault presentation of 300 classic Newport concerts (1955-1975), comes as a digital download or in a limited edition 180 gram vinyl edition. In quartet with Rouse, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Art Taylor, the pianist delivers a rousing performance described by Dan Morgenstern as "the greatest performance I have heard him give" and "the most moving experience of the festival."

With Monk dressed in a blue fedora, the band opens with the skip, hop and thunk of "In Walked Bud," Monk's tribute to his friend Bud Powell. Rouse takes center stage here, smoothing out the serrated edges of Monk's piano, with the pianist satisfied to accompany before taking (for him) a quite relaxed solo, quoting songs from his oeuvre. "Blue Monk," an oft-called blues-blowing vehicle, features more of Rouse's yang to Monk's ying. Taylor's muscled drumming is a constant thrust here, and Jones walks the blues walk as the piece turns the outside venue into a very dark and smoky basement club. Monk's solo translates the blues into his personal dialect of sidelong melody.

Side two (it is an LP) opens with a perfect gem, "Crepuscule with Nellie." Monk delivers an entire life's work in just two-and-a-half minutes. It is a taste of what he and Rouse would bandy about over the next decade. "Well You Needn't" gets tossed back and forth between the players, while "Rhythm-a-ning" swings hard, with Taylor's bold drumming balanced by Rouse's calm delivery. Monk comps by punching his percussive chords behind Rouse. When he solos (his tapping foot can be heard), his internal logic transforms into the musical language that was once such a strange trip but is now so familiar.

Track Listing: Introduction; In Walked Bud; Blue Monk; Crepuscule with Nellie; Well You Needn't; Rhythm-a-ning.

Personnel: Thelonious Monk: piano; Charlie Rouse: tenor saxophone; Sam Jones: bass; Arthur Taylor: drums.

Title: Newport '59 | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Concert Vault


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "Porcupine Meat" CD/LP/Track Review Porcupine Meat
by James Nadal
Published: September 29, 2016
Read "Asian Fields Variations" CD/LP/Track Review Asian Fields Variations
by John Kelman
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "The Hive" CD/LP/Track Review The Hive
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 14, 2016
Read "Checking Out" CD/LP/Track Review Checking Out
by Budd Kopman
Published: July 19, 2016
Read "Rhythm and Romance" CD/LP/Track Review Rhythm and Romance
by Jeff Winbush
Published: August 12, 2016
Read "Chicago II" CD/LP/Track Review Chicago II
by Doug Collette
Published: February 25, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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