Clip: Jazz masters Coltrane and Monk come alive in new release of 'lost' recording from 1957
Jazz masters Coltrane and Monk come alive in new release of 'lost'
recording from 1957
Daniel King, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 4, 2005
It came and went. Two giants of American music, John Coltrane and
Thelonious Monk, together so briefly in 1957 -- an eight-month pairing
that, until now, survived only in memory and on one pretty badly recorded
So it's understandable that this discovery would rumble the jazz world: In
January, a Library of Congress researcher found a musical treasure tucked
in a cardboard box -- a "lost" recording by Coltrane and Monk made in 1957.
A resulting, near-pristine album, "Thelonious Monk Quartet With John
Coltrane at Carnegie Hall," released last week on Blue Note Records,
captures 52 uptempo minutes. The researcher, Larry Appelbaum, found the
material by accident while transferring tapes to digital files for
preservation, he said by e-mail last week. He noticed the 10-inch acetate
reels and saw, on one of them, the name "T. Monk."
Appelbaum played it and quickly recognized the sound of Monk's piano and
Coltrane's saxophone. "I was stunned," he said.
Months later, Blue Note's president, Bruce Lundvall, landed the tapes'
rights, and Monk's son, drummer T.S. Monk, became producer. "As soon as I
heard it," Lundvall said, "I thought, 'My God, we have to have this.' "
The Carnegie Hall show was recorded by Voice of America, the broadcasting
service, but never aired: The tapes were mislabeled and misfiled.
The date, Nov. 29, 1957, marks the liftoff of Coltrane's and Monk's
careers. For six years beforehand, Monk, in his 30s, couldn't perform
publicly in New York City because police had revoked his cabaret card after
arresting him on false drug charges. But by 1957, he'd regained it.
Coltrane, 31, had left Miles Davis' quintet and, having struggled for an
audience, badly needed the gig.
On the album, Monk and Coltrane are restless warriors. "Nutty" finds
Coltrane climbing quickly through the registers with a big, loud sound.
"Sweet and Lovely" gives us Monk's banging, stop-and-go rhythms. Together,
they would change the course of rhythm and harmony in jazz.
The biggest difference between this album and the other one from 1957,
"Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane," is audio quality and song choice: The
earlier one includes "Ruby My Dear," "Trinkle, Tinkle" and "Functional."
The audio quality here is more balanced.
Weaknesses? Not really, although Coltrane does rely a bit on his familiar
phrases. Still, he thrills, and it's that creativity that led Blue Note's
president to distribute the album -- that, and the excitement any new
document of Monk and Coltrane's collaboration is sure to generate among
Coltrane died in 1967, Monk in 1982.
"First and foremost, it's the music," Lundvall said. "Every musician I've
played it for has nearly jumped through the window."
Blue Note, in conjunction with Thelonious Records, did a smart thing by
giving liner-note duties to a famously diverse group of writers: Amiri
Baraka, who describes the music as a "political" aspect of African American
culture; Ira Gitler, who does not; Stanley Crouch, who celebrates the
"self-confidence" of Monk's music; and, among others, Lewis Porter, who
writes passionately as a historian.
Questions remain. For instance, if these tapes could surface so abruptly
from the Library of Congress, could others?
"Yes," Appelbaum said. "A discovery like this reminds us why it's so
important to preserve these materials."
Lundvall agreed. "There's more Monk," he said. "There's more Clifford
Brown, too. A lot more than I know about."
> "First and foremost, it's the music," Lundvall said. "EveryMy reaction was pretty much the same when I heard it Tuesday for the first
> musician I've played it for has nearly jumped through the window."
time. So, sooooo good.
- --On Friday, October 7, 2005 2:52 PM -0500 Jason Baldwin
>> "First and foremost, it's the music," Lundvall said. "EveryI hope you weren't badly injured!
>> musician I've played it for has nearly jumped through the window."
> My reaction was pretty much the same when I heard it Tuesday for the first
> time. So, sooooo good.
> I hope you weren't badly injured!Well, he did say "nearly jumped." <g>
I bought it mostly for Coltrane -- my jazz collection consists of little
besides 'Trane: BLUE TRAIN, THE LAST GIANT, THE COMPLETE VILLAGE VANGUARD
RECORDINGS, BALLADS, THE CLASSIC QUARTET, DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE --
though I've KIND OF BLUE, SKETCHES OF SPAIN, THE COMPLETE BITCHES BREW
SESSIONS, and MINGUS AT ANTIBES, and a handful of other "classics" I haven't
dumped into iTunes yet. I've always preferred listening to Coltrane to
almost everyone else, but this "new" recording is making me want to go buy
as much Monk as I can find. Any suggestions where to start?
np: Jay-Z, "99 Problems"
- --On Friday, October 7, 2005 3:03 PM -0500 Jason Baldwin
> I've always preferred listening to Coltrane toIf this is your starting point, I bet you'd enjoy his _Plays Duke
> almost everyone else, but this "new" recording is making me want to go buy
> as much Monk as I can find. Any suggestions where to start?
Ellington_ and _Brilliant Corners_ records. And his work with Art Blakley,
and then...this stops being a good suggestion of "where to start."
Have you seen Straight, No Chaser?
> If this is your starting point, I bet you'd enjoy his _PlaysThanks for the tips. Making my way to the record store after work. I hate
> Duke Ellington_ and _Brilliant Corners_ records. And his
> work with Art Blakley, and then...this stops being a good
> suggestion of "where to start."
Best Buy, but I have a $20 reward certificate burning a hole in my pocket.
> Have you seen Straight, No Chaser?Not yet, but I'm thinking I should track it down. It'll be an online order,
from the looks of it.