Live at the Jazz Workshop

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Columbia/Legacy
PERFORMER: Thelonious Monk (p), Charlie Rouse (ts), Larry Gales (b), Ben Riley (d)
CATALOGUE NO: C2K 65189

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Is there anything new to discover about Monk’s music? Just when you thought that every last tape had been remastered and repackaged, Columbia pulls out a plum: a ‘complete’ version of the Jazz Workshop recording made in San Francisco in 1964.

The original was released just after his death in 1982, along with Live at the It Club, but this reissue adds a further 13 tunes, including alternate takes. Some critics believe the pianist’s best work to have been done with Blue Note in the Fifties. But there’s nothing here to suggest that Monk’s creative flow was ebbing in the Sixties.

All the mad invention, where angular phrases appear like brilliant after-thoughts, is here. The solos seem to describe a mad trolley ride along uneven tramlines, where chords are voiced like streetcar bells.

Monk may take interesting detours into other tunes – but he always arrives at his destination. It’s said that Monk was so self-absorbed that he was unaffected by the setting, be it nightclub or recording studio.

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But this live session, with its tentative starts and clinking glasses, does cast a different light on one of jazz music’s most natural improvisers, putting you right in the room with him. It is simply essential listening. Garry Booth