Jazz & Easy Review Vinyl

The Thelonious Monk Quartet: The First in Asia

Title: Monk in Tokyo

Label: Speakers Corner

What makes a great jazz musician? One that sees the genre from a new perspective? One who implements that music in a new way? One that ploughs his own furrow in terms of arrangements and content? Monk did all of these things. He was so far ahead of the jazz curve, in fact, that it took most jazz musicians years after Monk’s death to work out many of his unique compositions.

The Monk quartet were underway on their first Asian tour when this LP, recorded on 21 May 1963 in Sankei Hall, was recorded and were doing so while playing Monk’s own compositions – well, mostly – so you’ll see titles such as Straight, No Chaser, Blue Monk and Bemsha Swing on this release.

As for the quartet’s own performance? They’re on fine form and seem to enjoy the occasion. The audience appear to be enthralled and react well to the show which, in term, lifts the players to further heights. Monk especially, is plugged in to the evening and gives a series of sparkling renditions, giving the listener a full range of his own unique rhythms and his adventures in melody. More than that, though, Monk’s playing maintains a continuity that he was showing around this time. While his playing is typically intriguing and involving and, some might say, attractively eccentric, there is nothing to scare the wary or the jazz fan that has yet to taste the pleasures of Planet Monk. In fact, if you have yet to grab yourself an album by Monk, this is a very good place to start. Meanwhile, behind the great man, Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, Butch Warren on bass and Frankie Dunlop on drums provide strong and solid support.

This double album has been well mastered which, in itself, has been aided by the fact that the album was recorded well in the first place.

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