Recent listening, current

Saturday, March 2, 2013

49. Thelonious Monk / The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall (1959)

I like to think I can hear the splice in "Little Rootie Tootie," although I'm probably imagining it, a necessary evil because of a tape flip that missed the middle. Are there any tapers out there? You can identify. It's a good set, and arrangements for the 10-piece band showcase the soloists, like liquid Charlie Rouse, Phil Woods, Pepper Adams, or Donald Byrd. They also blow good ensemble figures and frame Monk's angularisms and wild chords within a richer ocean of sonority, so there's a lot of lift in the music. Some of these tunes, warhorses for small groups, sound as if they've found home at long last in a big band, like the majestic take of "Monk's Mood" or the jumping "Rootie." Just listen to ten guys blowing the head of "Rootie" around the 7-minute mark. Holy cow! That's tight! I think it works wonderfully. This performance finds Monk emerging from the '50s as mature and bursting with new ideas, about to enter his most productive decade just a few months ahead. For the full effect of the band, you've really got to turn up the volume on the stereo so it sounds like you're in the hall. It's electrifying.


  1. thanks for posting... great to hear a take of 'monk's mood' that i hadn't previously experienced. i think charlie rouse was an extension of monk's whole sound. the orchestra sounds like one person.

  2. Hi Dominic,

    I agree about Charlie Rouse. The total sound I attribute to Monk is, for a good spell of his career, in a large part due to Rouse's playing. There's two albums I like to think of as essential although somewhat apocryphal listening for Monkfans: Charlie Rouse's 'Epistrophy' and 'Live in Action: Recorded at the Five Spot Cafe.' The former is pure Rouse at the tail-end of his career, a good demonstration of his powers. And the latter is Monk without Rouse, who is supplanted by Johnny Griffin. It's a remarkable set and fascinating to hear what another great tenor could do with Monk's music.