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At Town Hall Original recording remastered

5.0 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, September 11, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Monk's spectacular 1959 tentet concert features Donald Byrd and Pepper Adams and includes Friday the 13th; Monk's Mood; Little Rootie Tootie , and more. Several bonus cuts, too, including In Walked Bud and Blue Monk !
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 11, 2007)
  • Rmst ed. edition
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: Riverside
  • ASIN: B000UDQR4U
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,855 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Thelonious Monk Orchestra At Town Hall was recorded in 1959 and released on Riverside Records. This recording is one of Monk's finest in my opinion. Monk's compositions lend themselves to this kind of sound. Also for 1959 this recording sounds fantastic. It has been remastered, but the original tapes had to have sounded good in order for the remaster to sound good.

There isn't a bad song here. Monk is joined by the following musicians: Phil Woods (alto saxophone); Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone); Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone); Donald Byrd (trumpet); Robert Northern (French horn); Eddie Bert (trombone); Jay McAllister (tuba); Sam Jones (bass); and Art Taylor (drums). What a killer band!

This concert is also an oddity in the Monk catalog as he never recorded again with a band of this caliber or size again. If you enjoy this I would suggest getting "Big Band And Quartet In Concert," but I would seriously pick the other one up first, because "Big Band..." is out-of-print now. "At Town Hall" is in print, but it won't be before too long I'm sure.

If you're a Monk fan then pick this one up right now.
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There are a lot of Monk CDs out there repeating parts of themselves. If you wanted ONE recording that illustrates Monk's genius, his better work from his better days, and which showcases other artists-- proving that Monk stood with and above his peers-- this is the CD to buy. Also, it has good cover notes which put Thelonious Monk in some historical perspective. (These notes caused me to want to learn more, which led me to Robin D. G. Kelley's biography, "Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original"). In short, it's a good Monk primer and is a good addition to any collection if you don't buy another Monk CD. I've given it as a gift to people who have never listened to Monk, in hopes the big band context will get them interested in a little more, so maybe they'll enjoy pure solo Monk someday.
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Format: Audio CD
I'd hate to have to pick just one Monk album if forced to choose. It would probably not be this one, but it would be on my short list.

When this was recorded live on February 28, 1959 it captured an interesting line-up, and more importantly, Monk in a large ensemble setting. I am sure that the choice of low register instruments like a trombone, French horn and tuba were Hall Overton's idea when he wrote the arrangements. They certainly add a dimension to Monk's music that you will not hear on any other recording.

Another thing I find interesting is aside from 'Round Midnight none of Monk's compositions lend themselves to being arranged too far outside of Monk's original compositions, but Overton does an excellent job - and Monk, bless him, plays in the spirit. The other musicians on the recording are also top notch and add much to the final product.

Normally when there are sound samples as there are on this page I cop out and encourage listening to those as a guide. In the case of this album those samples are too short to give you the full flavor, but they do give a tantalizing taste.

Some of the tracks seem to have an echo (or they do to my ears), but that does not detract from my enjoyment. If you are seeking perfection you are going to be slightly disappointed. However if you are seeking insights into Monk's compositions and how they sound in an ensemble in which he normally did not participate, then you will find this to be a treasure despite some flaws.

Also note that this album is vastly different from the original 1959 release. First, track 1 - Thelonious - on the original was only 56 seconds long. A snippet really. Here it's the full version. Second, the original release only contained six tracks. This has ten, including an encore of Little Rootie Tootie, Blue Monk, In Walked Bud and Rhythm-A-Ning.

Here is the bottom line: Love Monk? Get it.
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As the story goes, Orrin Keepnews found out about a ten piece Monk big band concert at the fabled Town Hall after it was already scheduled and quickly made plans to record it. This was a new road for Monk to travel on: a multitude of horns performing arrangements of six Monk classics outside of the nightclubs where Monk had largely been playing of late (in specific, the Five Spot). Monk had just lined up his new band, and it included a new sax player named Charlie Rouse who was known by jazz fanatics but few others. Those paying attention would have noted that Monk's last three players had been none other than Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Johnny Griffin, so one could easily assume that Rouse would play with Monk for a minute and then burst forward into a huge career. Instead, this was simply the first of scores of albums, both live and in the studio, featuring Rouse in a partnership that lasted twelve years and defined Rouse's career. A listener can quickly see what Monk saw in Rouse, too, when skipping to the three quartet tracks that were performed first. These were recorded but not meant for release, and it's nice to have them, though we would soon have MANY Monk/Rouse quartet tracks. Still, they wouldn't include this rhythm section, featuring Sam Jones and Art Taylor, so that makes the run-throughs of "In Walked Bud", "Blue Monk" and "Rhythm-A-Ning" all the better, even though all had been done with more fire by the Griffin and Coltrane bands. Still, again, this was just the opening set and an appetizer of the big band numbers to come, and that's where the real spark lies.

For this, we have such players as Pepper Adams, Phil Woods and Donald Byrd playing a large lineup of brass and reeds, emphasizing the saxophones and trumpet along with the less common French horn and tuba.
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