Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monk & Coltrane Atop Mount Everest

The Thelonious Monk discography runs to 40 albums not including compilations. My favorite, as well as a great entrée to this giant of jazz if you're unfamiliar with him, is Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall.

The story of this album is almost as good as the music itself: Jazz aficionados had long dreamed of hearing Monk and John Coltrane play together in concert, but no recording was thought to exist until a Library of Congress engineer found a tape from a November 1957 all-star benefit concert in 2005 with the tenor saxophone great joining Monk and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik and drummer Shadow Wilson.

The interplay between Monk and Coltrane, who had played for several weeks at the Five Spot in Manhattan, is consistently extraordinary and occasionally jaw dropping, prompting one critic to call it
the "musical equivalent of the discovery of a new Mount Everest."

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