Thelonious Monk

Palo Alto
Impulse B00 32180-02

Dave Brubeck Quartet

Time OutTakes, Previously Unreleased Takes from the Original 1959 Sessions

Brubeck Editions BECD 20200901

They both were American pianists, both led quartets featuring a saxophonist and both were on the cover of TIME magazine and both were even signed to the sane same record company. In fact by the 1960s, Thelonious Monk (1917-1982 and Dave Brubeck (1920-2012 were some of the most popular Jazz musicians in the world. Otherwise they couldn’t have been more different. Californian Brubeck had an academic background and made his reputation combining light swinging versions of standards with experiments in unique time signatures and metres. A student of the Harlem stride piano school, Monk was one of the progenitors of Bebop, yet by insisting on playing a limited number of his original compositions in a particular manner maintained a reputation as an outlier almost until his TIME appearance in 1964.

These recently discovered performances find both bandleaders and their quartets at the height of their fame and are distinctive definitions of their individual work. Yet more than a half century later they seem more allied than anyone then imagined since both projected almost effortless swing plus distinctive compositions.

Literal outtakes from Time Out, one of the most famous and best selling LPs in Jazz history, judging by the variances, the tunes on this CD reveal that the other members of the quartet – alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello –weren’t as comfortable with the melodies and the changes as composer Brubeck. Although “Band Banter” including cross talk and false starts is probably only of interest to completists, the newly discovered “Watusi Jam” not only highlights the genesis of motifs that would later make their way into others of the pianist’s compositions, it also points out his parsimoniousness – with Desmond not available he used the studio time to create a slippery trio cut with colorful double and triple bounces and swift percussion coloration from Morello. Otherwise Time OutTakes’ fascination lies in its preservation of an alternate take on history. Accustomed tunes are here, but performed just little differently than the versions entrenched in collective memory. “Blue Rondo à la Turk” for instance comes across more forcefully than in the famous version with the pianist somehow melding Blues and Baroque lines while piloting the ringing theme through clipping variations from Morello and a more forceful Desmond solo. The altoist’s elongated tone is squeakier, more slurry and staccato than the on the famous version and the drummer’s paradiddles and rattles that lead back the head more forceful.

Rather than outtakes, Palo Alto is a hitherto unknown recording of an equally obscure concert Monk and his quartet performed one afternoon in 1968 at a Palo Alto high school. Booked by an enterprising student and taped by a staff member, the fidelity isn’t up to Brubeck’s studio standards. But it cleanly captures how the pianist and one of his longer standing groups with tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley operated. Although by this time Monk’s repertoire had pretty much solidified into interpretations of the unique tunes he had created over the years, plus a couple of quirky asides, there are still surprises. Besides the angular piano thrusts and vibrating theme variations Monk and Rouse bring to the program, the bassist and drummer appear particularly energized. Dunlop’s slapping thumps and duple rhythms animate the faster tracks, and during his break on “Well, You Needn’t” his clattering attains the snap crackle of a flashier drummer like Roy Haynes. Gales’ invigorating pizzicato pulse keeps the momentum going on finger-snappers like “Blue Monk”. His arco introductions on pieces like “Ruby, My Dear” perfectly dovetail into the interpretation, and backed by surprisingly metronomic comping from the pianist on “Well, You Needn’t” precedes a solo where he bows and hums in unison à la Slam Stewart and shows on “Blue Monk” how he can worry a beat from the bass’s highest register all the way to the bottom. Rouse is his usual laconic self, snaking out familiar material with aplomb. A member of Monk’s quartet from 1959 to 1970, he could still produce new variations, and on “Epistrophy” adds a knife-sharp thrust to the already galvanizing theme. Like Brubeck someone who was always working out deviations from his own compositions, Monk is suitably enigmatic here. Ending most of the tunes with a flowery pre-modern flourish, he uniquely stretches out or contracts his playing. For instance on “Don’t Blame Me” his stop-time exposition includes swift glissandi and keyboard pressure then wriggles into pseudo honky-tonk and stride, shaking elevating tinkles at the end. His unaccompanied “I Love You Sweetheart of All My Dreams”, the set’s brief concluding coda, is almost purposely corny, though he makes the rickety-tick definition work. Other than that his familiarity with the material allows him to stroll and sequence timbres as he pleased. During “Blue Monk” his sparse accompaniment encourages Gales to allude to several other tunes, including Monk lines during the bassist’s solo.

To be honest neither of these CD will replace the justly famous sessions in either Brubeck’s or Monk’s discographies. But each possesses enough individuality to make them valuable documents on their own.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Time: 1. Blue Rondo à la Turk 2. Strange Meadowlark 3. Take Five 4. Three to Get Ready 5. Cathy's Waltz 6. I'm In a Dancing Mood 7. Watusi Jam 8. Band Banter from the 1959 Recording Sessions

Personnel: Time: Paul Desmond (alto saxophone); Dave Brubeck (piano); Eugene Wright (bass) and Joe Morello (drums)

Track Listing: Palo: 1. Ruby, My Dear 2. Well, You Needn’t 3. Don’t Blame Me 4. Blue Monk 5. Epistrophy 6. I Love You Sweetheart of All My Dreams

Personnel: Palo: Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone); Thelonious Monk (piano); Larry Gales (bass) and Ben Riley (drums)