The focus on Monk at the 2017 London jazz festival was a welcome celebration of his place in the pantheon of modern music. This 1963 Copenhagen concert is gold dust insofar as showcasing one of the best small groups he has ever led – tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, double bassist John Ore and drummer Frankie Dunlop, the quartet that graced the classic Criss Cross and Monk’s Dream – on very good form.
The venue was a club called Old Fellow Palaeet. The pristine sound jumps out immediately and is enhanced by Gearbox’s analogue re-mastering, giving the impression that the band is practically in your front room. The zestful brilliance of Monk originals such as ‘Nutty’ and ‘Bye Ya’, with their rhythmic curveballs, is more vital than ever, and all the players are admirably responsive to the pianist’s inimitable twists and turns. As for Monk’s reading of American songbook staples such as ‘Body And Soul’ it flags up his gift for wry personalization of celestial themes. Audio heaven is down here.
Thelonious Monk, Monk [Gearbox]