This never-before heard jazz classic documents one of the most historically important working bands in all of Jazz history, a band that was both short-lived and, until now, thought to be frustratingly under-recorded. The concert, which took place at the famed New York hall on November 29, 1957, was preserved on newly-discovered tapes made by Voice of America for a later radio broadcast that were located at the Library of Congress in Washington DC earlier this year. Blue Note. 2005.
Every year sees a crop of newly found jazz gems, but rarely are listeners treated to anything as special as this 1957 concert recording of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, which was accidentally discovered in an unmarked box by a Library of Congress engineer early in 2005. Until now, fans could only dream of hearing these two immortals play together beyond the three studio tracks they left behind. But here they are, hitting their stride at an all-star benefit concert, basking in the chemistry they had developed in Monk's quartet during the preceding weeks at New York's Five Spot. Coltrane's playing is a revelation. He's both an inspired accompanist and a galvanizing soloist, taking the music to new heights with his bold, brilliantly challenging, and sometimes jaw-dropping phrases, note clusters, and blasts of power. Sharing with Coltrane a newfound sense of freedom following the personal and professional troubles that had plagued them both, Monk is clearly tickled to be in the tenorist's presence, injecting humorous commentaries and otherwise asserting his eccentric genius as a pianist. The material, which was very well recorded by the Voice of America, includes Monk classics like "Epistrophy," "Monk's Moods," and "Evidence," as well as a striking rendition of the standard "Sweet and Lovely." This is music that not only bears repeated listenings, but also demands them--the ultimate definition of a classic. --Lloyd Sachs