Thelonious Monk: Mønk


In 1963 Monk performed at Copenhagen’s Odd Fellows concert hall with the line-up that played on his Monk’s Dream album. He was at the peak of his career. The performance was aired on Danish radio but the broadcast tapes were lost. Some decades later they were discovered, apparently discarded, in a skip. They have now been assiduously restored in crystal clear mono by means of Gearbox’s all-analogue process. The quality of the sound is astonishing. 

The tracks on the CD, three originals and two interpretations of standards, reveal Monk in his prime. “Bye-Ya”, “Nutty” and “Monk’s Dream” have never been heard before on any of the quartet’s live albums. They eclipse even the famous studio versions on the Columbia LP. The piano has a richer, more resonant sound than the one played by Monk on the studio pressing and his tasteful soloing on “Body and Soul” apart, the music is uptempo and vigorous.

Monk’s idiosyncratic style – distinct rhythmic improvisation, phrase repetition in different formats and disharmonic interpretation – is on unfettered display. Spurred on by the appreciative audience, the ease and fluidity generated by the band on stage is tangible. It’s as if you’re in the same room. While Charlie Rouse may not have the glamour that has been attached to other saxophonists that played alongside Monk such as Coltrane and Rollins, this is arguably the best quartet that Monk ever fronted.

Why the “ø“ in the album title? The vowel of course is Danish. It’s pronounced as in “burn”. So the tongue-in-cheek jollity here is that this CD is so “superior”, its title is not just “Monk” – it’s Mønk.

Bye-Ya; Nutty; I’m Getting Sentimental over You; Body and Soul; Monk’s Dream (40.64)
Charlie Rouse (ts); Monk (p); John Ore (b); Frankie Dunlop (d). Copenhagen, 5 March 1963.
Gearbox 1541