Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
2 CD, Digipack
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The only soundtrack recorded by Thelonious Monk in 1959 to be released for the first time as a 2CD set! Contains performances of classic Monk tunes heard in Roger Vadim's 1960 French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Features Monk's 1959 all-star band of Charlie Rouse, Sam Jones & Art Taylor, plus special guest saxophonist Barney Wilen. Contains a 50 pg booklet with texts, discography, never before seen photographs and memorabilia from the recording session and original artwork.
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This is the music Monk recorded in 1959 for the French film (also the title of this set) that also had other American jazz players on the soundtrack. While the other music for the film (Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers and others) has been released, this music by Monk has never been issued as a stand alone release until now. Sanctioned by Monk's estate, the original tapes (recently located) were used for this release. The sound is actually quite good for older tapes--crisp and clean sounding. The 56 page booklet has an essay (among others) by Robin Kelley, author of "Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original", plus period photos from the film and session at Nola Penthouse Studio in N.Y. The discs slip inside pockets in a tri-fold cardboard package and along with the thick booklet, everything slips into a cardboard slipcase open at both ends. This is a nicely presented package all the way around.
The band is Monk-piano,Charlie Rouse-tenor sax, Sam Jones-bass, and Art Taylor-drums. Barney Wilen is heard on a few tracks on tenor sax. Monk didn't compose any new music for the film, choosing to improvise on his own tunes Like "Crepuscule For Nellie", "Well, You Needn't", "Light Blue", "Rhythm-A-Ning", "Pannonica", "Six In One" (which appeared later slightly different under the title "Round Lights") , and other compositions. Besides the finished takes, included are false starts, alternate takes (including a 14 + minute "making of" the tune "Light Blue". There's also some studio talk on these tracks. Plus we get to hear the 45 RPM master versions of "Light Blue", and "Pannonica".
This music is arguably best heard as far as impact in album form as opposed to the film itself. All the tracks show Monk at some of his best improvising along with a great band. Rouse is in good form (along with Wilen), and the music stands as another good example of Monk's skills as a composer and improvisor. "Rhythm-A-Ning" has a nice swinging (at least for Monk) sound. Listen to to the bass/drums subtly drive this tune and then Monk's piano. "By and By" is under two minutes but Monk's plaintive sound on this solo piece is there from the beginning. "Light Blue" begins with a stop/start drum rhythm that grabs your attention from the start, and then the piano and that warm tenor sax sound fill in this composition nicely. But all the finished takes (and some of the alternates) have Monk's stamp on them.
For Monk (and Rouse) fans this is a real find. Even though dealing with personal issues and relying mostly on already written compositions of his own, Monk rose to the occasion at this session. A good addition to your shelf of Monk music.
One star for the packaging, The booklet includes a bunch of pictures that I am sure are the best available and if the booklet contained nothing else, I'd be fine, But there are 25 pages of text in a font that would be horrible to read even if it were large enough. But it isn't. It is microscopic and without much contrast, I can't read any of it. The booklet has made the leap from art to idiocy, I'm hoping that someone can scan it and put a text file online so that aging eyes can look through that window,