Saturday, May 05, 2007

Monk 'n' Trane --- Straight, No Chaser

In early 2005, a recording engineer named Larry Appelbaum discovered a set of 8 acetate-tape reels while mucking about at the Library of Congress, which were labeled "Carnegie Hall Jazz 1957" with a handwritten note hinting "T. Monk" along with some song titles. As it turns out, this was a hitherto unpublished recording by Voice of America of the Monk/Coltrane date at Carnegie Hall.

You see, Monk and Coltrane worked together for a very brief period --- just over a year (April 1957 to September 1958) --- and while they performed together extensively during that time, there is a devastating paucity of recorded evidence of their work, which made Appelbaum's excavations all the more stunning.

Monk would've turned 90 this year, and as part of what they're calling the Monk Project, SFJazz's Spring Season yesterday featured a reimagining of that historic Carnegie Hall concert with Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade taking on the mantles of John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Shadow Wilson respectively.

When signing up for the tickets earlier this year, I was initially a little skeptical of attending one of those reenactment concerts which usually feature too much replication and very little imagination. I'm glad I ignored those initial anxieties. While they stuck closely to the original set list with a lot of Monk's standards like "Crepuscule with Nellie" and "Monk's Mood", this was truly a "reimagination". Blade and Redman were particularly inspired, while Mehldau anchored the quartet in Monk's trademark harmonic eccentricities. I was a tad disappointed in McBride's showing --- he tended to play in a detached sort of way, which was unlike the previous times I've seen him as a bandleader.

For cute irony, they rounded off the night with an encore performance of Straight, No Chaser. Awesome! :)

You know, anybody can play a composition and use far-out chords and make it sound wrong. It's making it sound right that's not easy.

--Thelonious Sphere Monk


Neria Sebastien said...

hey nice quote from T monk, I may not agree with everything u posted here but i love your effort.

Anti-Jive said...

Funny you said what you said about McBride being "detached". I thought he was the one consistent guy holding it all together. Maybe that's what you meant by detached.