Live At The 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival

Thelonious Monk

Monterey Jazz Festival Records, 2007

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Thelonious Monk is an icon in the history of jazz music. His improvisational style and use of dissonant notes has influenced generations of jazz pianists that have emerged since his death.

Live At The 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival finds Monk at the top of his game. His move to the Columbia label in 1962 expanded Monk’s commercial appeal and enabled him to enter the most creative period of his career. The disc finds Monk accompanied by Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Steve Swallow on bass and Ben Riley on drums for the first four songs; the last two songs add trombone, baritone sax, flute and two trumpets. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Blue Monk” begins the set. Monk sets the theme with an opening solo and then disappears, as he was wont to do during his live performances. Rouse explores the theme until Monk reappears to make the song his own, but just as quickly he's gone again as first the bass and then the drums take extended solos. Sax and piano bring the song to a satisfying conclusion.

“Evidence” takes a different route. Monk allows the sax to set up the melody for his piano and then explores this theme with a series of dissonant notes set against the melody. Bass and drums solo again clear the palate until the group’s members join together to end it. “Blue Mississippi” shows Monk at his best, exploring a melody with a number of unexpected twists along the way.

"Rhythm-A-Ning" finds Monk spending some time in the background while Charlie Rouse sets up the melody so that Monk can solo, and a good one it is. Another highlight is“Think Of Me,” which has more of a big band feel and yet another great solo that saves the song.

“Straight, No Chaser” brings the program to a close. Monk provides his longest solo of the evening, proving he is a technically superior pianist and rounding out what turns out to be a very satisfying release.

Thelonious Monk died a quarter of a century ago but through recordings such as Live At The 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival his genius continues to shine through. Although it's surprising how often he stays in the background here, but that's forgotten when he actually plays, because when he does it's jazz at its best.

Rating: A

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© 2007 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Monterey Jazz Festival Records, and is used for informational purposes only.