Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane – At Carnegie Hall, 1957 (Blue Note, 2005)
Well, it is finally here, accompanied by much fanfare and as much free press coverage as Blue Note has ever received for an album not made by Norah Jones. Recorded in November of 1957 during a pivotal point in the careers of both of the principals (Monk had recently regained his cabaret card and Coltrane had put his substance abuse difficulties behind him) the group had been working night in and night out in the Five Spot Café and was super tight and performing on a very high level. The liner notes to the recording go into the details of the music’s rediscovery and they make for fascinating reading, but in the end it is the music that speaks volumes about the titans involved.
The compositions performed are all Monk chestnuts from the period. “Monk’s Mood” comes first with the band perfectly intertwined. It’s hard to believe as stated in some articles that Coltrane initially had a great deal of trouble in performing Monk’s music, as he glides through it with ease and confidence here. Two takes of “Epistrophy” (one incomplete) show the band hardly stood pat in their performances of particular tunes, but was searching for something different each time they too to their instruments. Ahmed Abdul-Malik is a rock on bass, and Shadow Wilson is particularly interesting on drums, locked in with Monk and using the cymbals to keep the rhythm and groove going. This is wonderful music that is a joy to hear.
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