Monday, July 09, 2007

Thelonious Monk: Live @ the It Club (Review)




















...Thelonious Monk (above, left, at Minton's in NYC, circa '47) is one of those way-out-there jazz originals who, along with laying down the foundation for hard bop, tended to color his sonic pastiche outside the margins of even the loosely applied fringes of serious jazz (all the while maintaining a sense of humor that he'd sprinkle over everything he did)...in doing so, he's issued a grip of great studio work and sounded even better on live recordings...such is the case on his Live at the It Club set which was grabbed during a gig at L.A.'s storied jazz club which no longer exists in the brick-and-mortar real but is still kept alive in memory through old pictures and recordings...Live at the It Club takes you there (you can actually hear bottles and glasses clinking at quiet points)...recorded in 1964, when the pianist's chops were in full flower, it was wrapped up over a couple of nights as the Monk made his rounds on the West Coast ...


























...while Monk is the keystone holding the ensemble in place, the lineup of the staff on hand includes hard-hitting sidemen: Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Larry Gales (bass) and Ben Riley (drums) who all come together and yield one of the finer live jazz albums out there...to be certain, this double disc set has highlights all over the place but, if it's your first time checking the LP, the list of tunes to listen for begin with "Straight No Chaser", a swingin' number that sets the mood for everything that follows in it's wake...other hotspots include "Teo", "Bright Mississippi" (both of which were previously unreleased on the original pressings), "Blues Five Spot", "Evidence", "Nutty" , "Epistrophy (Theme)" (first recorded when he played in Coleman Hawkins' outfit during the salad days) and "Bemsha Swing" (...I first heard John Coltrane and Don Cherry's cover of this on a JC album which made me dig a little deeper)...too, it must be noted, there's a couple of joints that the newly initiated will either grow into over time or just not dig, for instance, "Gallop's Gallop" is a minor, dischord number that has an acquired taste (I dig it now, but not the first couple of times I heard it)... "Misterioso" gets really weird for a second but hold tight, it settles back into a calcified groove after that "wig-out" moment...

























...some Scrapple from the Apple...from what I've learned over the years, that was Monk's way, slippin' his audience a mickey on the DL-- he'd reel his audience in and BAM, slip some experimental shit into the mix, once he had their noses wide open as he circles back on that weird, modal jumping thing at the end but what the hey, that's one of the reasons why I love the guy's music-- when I first started checking him, every listen was like opening up a box of chocolates from Mama Gump...I never knew what I was going to hear...yeah, I went there, son...as I type this, I realize I could close in tight on historical minutia but I won't, if you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, I know you will... I'll let the tunage speak for itself by posting a couple more jams-to-check-first below (surprise!) ...if you dig on live jazz; want to get into it but don't know where to start, cop Thelonious' Live at the It Club set, it'll do you right...in terms of piano, it's up there with Kind of Blue, in my book...here's my favorite cut on the album, "Well, You Needn't"-- when the time comes, Thelonious plucks out a blinding groove that opens the door for a stand up bass solo by Gales which eventually breaks down with a "shave-and-a-haircut" tag...the ensuing phat-bottomed drum workout from Riley, is just icing on the cake (check how he digs in just as everyone seamlessly drop back into the fold on the 1 and roll on out)...these cats were playing their hearts out while throwing it on the It Club's stage and it's also evident that they were having a ball....just like the patrons who walked through the doors on the nights that this album got recorded...it feels like you're right there...


























....click the header or here to check a few more cuts from this album....

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