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Monk, Thelonious / Monk in Paris
Album:Monk in Paris Collection:Jazz
Artist:Monk, Thelonious Added:01/2004
Label:Thelonious Records 

A-File Activity
Add Date:2004-04-05 Pull Date:2004-06-07 Charts:Jazz
Week Ending:6 Jun30 May23 May16 May9 May2 May25 Apr18 Apr
Airplays:33312212

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1.Thu, 11 Oct 18:Fo
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5.Tue, 21 Jul 15:David Bug
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Album Review
Fo
Reviewed 2004-04-05 
THELONIOUS MONK - "Monk in Paris: Live at the Olympia"
Hyena Records / Thelonious Records
1965

This is the first release in what should be an extensive series of live recordings and bootlegs collected by the Monk estate, and they couldn’t have picked a better place to start. Recorded live in March 1965, this set is not just as good as, but actually better than some of the Columbia Records releases from the same period.

Unlike, say, Miles Davis, who spent his entire career looking for new sounds and fresh challenges, Monk was not an explorer. He was a craftsman. Monk had pretty much found the sound he was looking for by the early 1950s, and spent the next 20 years in that space, refining and perfecting it. Most of that time was spent in a quartet, anchored by the tenor sax of Charlie Rouse. Yet despite the restrictions, Monk's music continued to sound fresh and vibrant until he suddenly abandoned public life for good in the early 1970s.

What we have here is a prime example of Monk's mid-60's style. After years of being misunderstood, Monk had blossomed into a jazz superstar and was now touring the world incessantly, focusing on his favorite compositions and a few select standards. Monk's music was not really "bebop" or "hardbop" or any other easily labeled style. It was his own, deeply rooted in the "tradition", and not nearly as far out as many at the time made it out to be. Part bop, part swing, part ragtime, part madness. That was Monk.

All four musicians are in prime form on the disc. Monk has great energy and at times brings back his older, more elaborate 1940's Blue Note sound (check out his solo on the first track), but also performs his usual trick of under-playing solos to suggest ideas rather than lead the listener. He's never predictable, jumping from a raggy piano stride into sudden stop-start chord statements without warning.

Charlie Rouse sounds just great: his combination of street-tough tone and smooth-flowing melodic lines feeds right into Monk's sense of fun and at times makes the music almost slippery. The rhythm section smokes from start to finish, and Ben Riley gets plenty of crowd-pleasing drum breaks. All in all, this concert can hold its own against anything else Monk recorded in this period.

Best of all is something that unfortunately you can't play on the radio. Disc 2 is a DVD containing part of a performance in Norway from 1966. And you can't truly appreciate Monk until you've seen him. See him dance away from his piano during Rouse's solos, watch him approach the keyboard like it, not he, creates the music, and you will soon discover why so many of Monk's fans are so fanatically devoted to him.

If you've never checked out Thelonious Monk, this is a good introduction. If you already know and love Monk, this disc will not merely fill out but enhance your experience of the master. A highly recommended piece of jazz history!

PLAY IT ALL. Best tracks: 1, 2, 6, 7

1. 10:30 – SMOKIN’ rock-solid bop: great solos from all (especially sax)
2. 2:46 – solo piano ballad: pleasant but complex mishmash of styles
3. 10:52 – midtempo, long solos: bluesy sax, gentle piano, walking bass
4. 1:22 – solo piano ballad: tentative start, straightforward rendition
5. 12:19 – midtempo: odd mixing levels create interesting effects: neat sax/piano friction; listen to Monk grunt!
6. 9:05 – uptempo, rolls nicely, sparkly piano: dig the second half!
7. 5:08 – chugging intro, then slightly askew sax & piano. Fun listening

[Fo]

Track Listing
1.Rhythm-A-Ning 4.April in Paris
2.Body and Soul 5.Well You Needn't
3.I Mean You 6.Bright Mississippi
 7.Epistrophy