Thelonious Alone In San Francisco

Thelonious Monk

Concord Music Group, 2011

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


The Concord Music Group has released six new titles in their ongoing Original Jazz Classics Remasters Series. As with all the titles in the series, they have been enhanced by 24 bit remastering, original and new liner notes, plus many come with bonus tracks.

Concord has also continued its policy of reissuing original studio and live albums, rather than compilation albums. This policy has enabled them to resurrect some of the most innovative, creative, and influential albums in jazz history. Artists who are the subject of this latest batch of reissues are Chet Baker, Ornette Coleman, Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald & Joe Pass, the Bill Evans Trio, and the subject of this review, Thelonious Monk. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Thelonious Monk is recognized as one of the genius’ of American jazz. Several generations of pianists have been influenced by his creativity and innovations. His use of dissonant notes and melodies, plus his dramatic pauses and silences were unique in jazz music at the time. His recording career would last from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s. The last decade of his life was spent in seclusion due to ill health.

When he walked into Fugazi Hall in San Francisco, October 21-22, 1959, it was just him, his piano, and the recording equipment. The resultant album, Alone In San Francisco, was the second of three solo albums he would make during his career, and they remain unique in his catalogue of music. There was no place to hide as this is Thelonious Monk at his most basic. While his creativity was always recognized, here the focus is squarely on his masterful technique. (Editor's note: This album was originally released on Riverside in 1959.)

The album begins with one of his most famous compositions as he gives a somewhat subdued rendition of “Blue Monk.” Complementing it were the was the debuts of two new tunes, “Bluehawk,” and “Round Lights,” They are, at heart, blues tunes, which were welcome additions, as they run counterpoint to much of what he was producing at the time.

He turned to the Great American Songbook for several tunes. “Remember” is an old Irvin Berlin song that Monk tales in a low key and emotional direction. The real treat was the 1929 song, “There’s Danger In Your Eyes, Cherie,” which he twists all out of shape in an improvisational extravaganza.

Alone In San Francisco is a treat for any fan of classic jazz as it finds Thelonious Monk in a pensive yet creative mood. The fact that he is solo is just icing on the cake.


Rating: A-

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© 2011 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 Concord Music Group, and is used for informational purposes only.