Recordings: Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane – At Carnegie Hall

    Working at Geisel might let you snooze away on the fifth floor. But unless you manage to find something cool in the trenches (classic porn, UCSD’s secret neo-Nazi ties?), working at a library is not very rock-and-roll. So imagine discovering the lost recordings of Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall in the archives of the Library of Congress.

    Finally, jazz cats get a live collaboration of two giants in jazz. This recording was made toward the latter end of Monk’s and Coltrane’s brief collaboration, and their vibes are in full swing here as opposed to the earlier studio work that had Coltrane scared shitless. Coltrane’s solos are the usual poetry, exhuming life, love and America. Sure enough, he knows how to play.

    Monk, on the other hand, is as weird as expected. Between sporadic chord cluster attacks and arpeggio runs across the keyboard, it’s easy to see that Monk’s concern is creativity, not virtuosity. On “Blue Monk,” his showmanship does not match Coltrane’s. But his excess of dissonant intervals brings out the dark blue in his signature tune. The two giant personalities clash in angular pieces like “Epistrophy” and “Evidence.” On the latter in particular, the angular conversation between Coltrane and Monk is enough for jazz enthusiasts to regard this a five-star record.

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