Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thelonious Monk - Jazz Icons: Live in '66 (Reelin' in the Years, 2006)

Containing two black and white performances by pianist and composer Thelonious Monk recorded for European television in 1966, this DVD features Monk with Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums. It is fascinating to watch Monk and the sheer physicality of his performance style. He crosses his hands as he plays and stabs at the keyboard. As unusual as it looks, he is always perfectly on time with the rest of the band and his playing and improvisations are logical and well thought out. Interesting too is how Monk would react to other member of the band soloing, at times doing a shuffling dance while keeping time with a twitching elbow especially on "Lulu’s Back In Town". Drummer Ben Riley plays a very small kit that is stripped down to just the bare few pieces, but his brush work is deft and he provides a firm rhythmic foundation with bassist Larry Gales who gets some lengthy solo opportunities. They play a very nice and enigmatic version of the moody Monk classic "Round Midnight" with Monk stating the melody and then the rest of the band falling in with thoughtful interplay and great restraint. "Blue Monk" finds the band at its most jubilant, with wonderful saxophone playing from Charlie Rouse. He has a deep, pinched sound to his horn and the way he constructs his solos were perfect for Monk's music. This was an excellent DVD, and I only wish it could have been longer. Hopefully more footage on Monk will turn up and be released. Thelonious Monk Live in '66 -

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