The musician is considered one of the revolutionaries and geniuses of post-World War II jazz music.
By Ricardo Alonso Venereo
July 29, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Palo Alto, an unreleased album by American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk (Rock Mounty, 1920 – Weehawken, 1982) will be presented next July 31, on digital platforms, 52 years after his songs were actually recorded in a concert that the artist gave in 1968 in a high school in the city of Palo Alto, California, which at the time, helped “temporarily unite a city divided by racism.”
Coincidentally, the release of the album, which under the label ¡Impulse! Universal Music, will also be released on CD and vinyl. (The latter in a special edition that will include a replica of the original poster and handheld program.). It had been scheduled to be released before the current epidemiological situation in the world. It serves to show us today how identical some things are to 1968, the year of the assassination of Black leader Martin Luther King and when racial conflicts between whites and Blacks stirred up American society at the time.
“With Palo Alto, Monk’s music once again becomes balm for a wounded society that resists understanding that we all vibrate to the same beat and rhythm,” says the important Californian cultural promoter Danny Scher, This album is largely due to the current atmosphere in that country as a result of the death of the African-American George Floyd.
“The performance is one of the best recordings I’ve ever heard of Thelonious,” said T.S. Monk, son of the star, after listening to the recording that,15 years ago ,Danny Scher found, and which he put in his hands through saxophonist Jimmy Heath. He was one of the greats of the be-bop era, after he finished producing an unreleased album by Monk and Coltrane at Carnegie Hall in 2005.
Although it is acknowledged that Monk’s best performances have always been live, it is also stated that there are numerous documented concerts and tours of the pianist, which are of great value and this recording is an example of this. Here the band really sounds very relaxed and inspired, but also because this era of Monk in concert is not particularly documented, which makes this album the last official live performance of Monk’s classic quartet with Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales and Ben Riley.
It is claimed that when this concert took place the group had just recorded the legendary album Underground and the band’s days were about to come to an end, but in 1968 they were still sounding full of life, starting with Charlie Rouse, who plays superb solos in this concert. Gales and Riley also shine with their own light. And, of course, Monk, who among other pearls leaves here a version of Don’t Blame Me, truly anthological.
Other themes collected in Palo Alto are Don’t Blame Me and Ruby My Dear; the dynamic and lively Well You Needn’t, at 13 minutes and with solos by all the components or the abrupt end with Rudy Vallée’s classic: I Love You (Sweetheart of All My Dreams).
The magnificent human story behind this album, only 47 minutes long, is profusely detailed in the excellent notes signed by Monk’s biographer, Robin G. Kelley.
Thelonious Monk is considered one of the revolutionaries and geniuses of post-World War II jazz music.
A CubaNews translation by Walter Lippmann.
25 April 2017 / UNESCO Havana / Culture Portal for Latin America and the Caribbean
Two unforgettable encounters between music students from Cuba and the world were held on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 April. It was a magnificent debut for the week dedicated to the global celebration of International Jazz Day in Havana: the first in the University of The Arts (ISA) and the second in the Conservatory of Music “Amadeo Roldán”.
In front of the visiting musicians from different countries and students of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, Danier Seeff, Director of Programs of this institute in the West Coast of the United States came
The young jazz musicians offered a concert in both school centers that included several numbers under their own authorship and an impressive musical route by the History of the Jazz, from the times of one of its initiators in century XIX, the teacher of the ragtime Scott Joplin, until contemporaries like Dizzy Gillespie and Wynton Marsalis, going through 1960s jazz, an expression of the civil rights struggles in the United States at the time.
Under the direction of Camilo Moreira Coro, the ISA Jazz Band offered a performance that included versions of “Mambo No. 5” by Dámaso Pérez Prado, “Amor Fugaz” by Benny Moré, and “Chinoiserie” by Duke Ellington, as well as the interpretation by the young pianist of the band of one of his own compositions.
In the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, the young middle level students gave a show led by the female quintet “Nymphs”, directed by the cellist Kabila Franchini Suárez; The musical project “Ceda el Paso”, with the young and laureate pianist Rodrigo García Ameneiro at the front; and the the school’s jazz band, under the direction of the Master Enrique Rodriguez Toledo, also director of the band. The students performed singular arrangements of classics such as “Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla or “Pita y Para”, by Francisco Repilado, and a wide repertoire of Cuban and international jazz.
But the most exciting in both cases was the interaction of the students of Thelonious Monk with their Cuban counterparts. It was a real splurge of virtuosity both by hosts and guests, who performed improvised jam sessions and exchanged knowledge in spontaneous “workshops” of Instruments, memorable “downloads” where talent and creativity flowed uncontainablely, after the scheduled presentations were concluded.
They were, without doubt, new samples of the power of jazz to unite, and to create synergies, so that the cultures dialogue through the notes of the most democratic musical genre. Those of us who live in it were, in truth, privileged.