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Monk had at this point in his career ironed out some of the most obvious angularities that had made his music somewhat difficult for non-diehard jazz fans to absorb


Good jazz from
a Japan tour

Thelonious Monk: 1963 in Japan
imes Music
Rs 100

With just five pieces this excellent tour album just avoids being disappointingly short

This album is one of a series of new cassettes from Times Music containing classic performances by such jazz greats as Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. Much of the material is very good, but some is of poor recording quality. On the debit side, there is no documentation apart from the names of the tracks and a brief biographical sketch of the leading musician, and at least two of the cassettes have serious mistakes in each of these departments. Times Music needs to pull up its socks on its slipshod documentation.

Luckily, this album doesn't carry such blunders and, since its title indicates it's taken from a single concert tour, I was able to infer the names of the supporting musicians from a compilation album containing two other numbers performed in Japan in 1963. The recording quality too is better than on the other albums. So let me get down to commenting on the music played by Monk on piano, Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, Butch Warren on bass, and Frankie Dunlop on drums.

That is pretty good. Monk had at this point in his career ironed out some of the most obvious angularities that had made his music somewhat difficult for non-diehard jazz fans to absorb. With its deliberately irregular timing and unusual note sequences, it was more inaccessible than most of be-bop and seldom offered the exciting tempos that be-bop generally did. Those who listened attentively, were rewarded by his dramatic and strong technique, sense of harmony, strikingly original compositions and the vigour with which he put them across.

It's fair to say that the regular presence of Charlie Rouse during this mature phase of his career went a long way towards alleviating the angularity of Monk's earlier work. It also helped him to realise some of the ideas he shared with Duke Ellington about blending different sound textures in his work, lacking in his solo and trio performances. The quartet performs several of his famous compositions here, including Blue Monk . On this opening number, like on most of the others, the whole quartet take turns to make solo contributions. On this one Rouse solos first, followed by Monk. On Bolivar Blues and Evidence, solo piano intros precede the theme before, once again, Rouse's sax rousingly takes a long first solo.

Two short numbers close the album. Just a Gigolo is an entirely solo piano performance, its rhythmlessness accentuating the reflective mood of the album. The closing number, Epistrophy, like Blue Monk starts off with Rouse leading on the theme and then taking the first solo. With just five pieces the album just avoids being disappointingly short. And of course the quality goes some way further towards alleviating any residual disappointment at the length.


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