Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane – The Complete Riverside Recordings of April-July 1957 – Riverside (2 CDs)

by | Jun 22, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane – The Complete Riverside Recordings of April-July 1957 – Trio: add Wilbur Ware, bass; Septet: add Ray Copeland, trumpet; Gigi Gryce, alto sax; Coleman Hawkins, tenor sax; Art Blakey, drums; Quartet: add Shadow Wilson, drums (replacing Blakey) –  Riverside RCD2-30027-2 (2 CDs) 52:21 & 53:38 *****:

This reissue set, produced and annotated by longtime jazz producer Orrin Keepnews – who presided over the original sessions, is similar to the recent Miles Davis Prestige set in that most of the tracks have been issued and reissued many times, but never before has the public had a chance to hear every bit of the music recorded during the sessions, in the order in which it was laid down. This is all of the music created by Monk and tenor saxist Coltrane together in the studio setting, and it includes two previously-unreleased alternate takes – one of Crepuscule with Nellie and another of the 19th-century hymn Abide with Me. Keepnews wrote a revealing essay about the sessions which is in the booklet of notes. His remembrances of Monk’s little eccentricities are fun reading.

During this same year Monk and Coltrane were playing steadily for about a six-month period at the Five Spot Cafe in New York, but they were never recorded live there. Coltrane had signed a contract with Prestige, and Monk – who had parted painfully from Prestige – wanted none of it.  Keepnews writes that Coltrane, who had just left the Miles Davis Quintet, was fitting in with and enhancing Monk’s music in ways he hadn’t been doing even with Miles. This partnership was another terrific learning experience for Coltrane, and he made a giant leap musically as a result.

The nearly 14 minute septet track on Disc 1 of Blues for Tomorrow by Gig Gryce, is here issued as a stereo track for the first time.  There is no indication of which tracks are stereo and which mono in the track listings – these details are saved for a fine print section on the last page of the booklet. Basically most are stereo except for the first two trio tracks and the final three trio tracks at the end of Disc 2. I got out the Jazzland mono/stereo SACD from the same sessions – issued by Fantasy back in 2003 and did listening comparison. Guess what? For the first time I couldn’t tell any difference between the SACD tracks and the same tracks on the new reissue! Perhaps on the two stereo tracks of the septet the cymbals in the drum set had just a touch more sheen and overtones, but it was very minimal.

Tracks: Monk’s Mood, Crepuscule with Nellie, Crepuscule with Nellie takes 2, 4, 5 & 6 plus a breakdown take, Blues for Tomorrow, Off Minor takes 4 & 5; Abide With Me (2 takes), Epistrophy (short & long versions), Well, You Needn’t (opening only & entire), Ruby, My Dear (with Coleman Hawkins), Ruby, My Dear (with John Coltrane), Nutty, Trinkle, Tinkle.

– John Henry

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