Jazz Icons: Thelonious MonkLive In ’66

Reelin In The Years Productions

Monk Live in ’66 is a classic DVD; your chance to see up close and personal how a jazz master works his magic. Classic tunes like “Blue Monk,” “Round Midnight” and “Epistrophy” are performed live and you are a witness to the performance and improvisational process. Thelonious Monk is shown at his creative best, improvising and comping with his bandmates. A Quincy Jones quote in the liner notes is so appropriate, “An audio-visual treasure trove of the music that changed the world.”

There are numerous wonderful points to be made for this DVD and this Jazz Icons DVD series. The Monk DVD comes with a twenty-page booklet that is quite enlightening. The booklet features a foreword by Monk’s son T.S. The liner notes are by Don Stickler, arranger and trumpet player with Ben Riley’s Monk Legacy Septet. The booklet features some great photos of Monk as well as a montage of magazine articles, cover shots, posters and other such memorabilia of Monk during that period of time.

During my first viewing of the DVD, I did not read the booklet, I made a few notes for my reference. My first note was in regards to Monks choice of hats for the Norway gig, very strange. My next note was to check out Ben Riley, I had no idea he was a basic two-piece kit drummer, I was really impressed.

But this was supposed to be a live gig, so where was that interaction from the audience? This is where reading the liner notes comes in handy. The liner notes indicate that these sessions were recorded before the audience arrived in the case of Norway and in a television studio in the case of Denmark. The notes enlighten you as to Monk’s choice of hats for the gig and they even clue you in as to Ben Riley’s drum kit selection. They add quite a bit of information and are educational and interesting.

The DVD is a musical delight, the sound is good, and the quality of the film is very good. The fact that there is no audience is disappointing, as I believe an appreciative audience adds to a performance. There are a few areas where the film may have been spliced together, these are not really bad spots, they only disrupt the flow for one to two seconds. The opportunity to go back in time and have the feeling of sitting in the studio audience for the performances is fantastic and cancels out any complaints about technical quality. The camera work is excellent, with camera angles that really highlight Monk’s technique.

When I listen to my favourite Monk records, I always wondered what was happening on the keyboard. I envisioned a very serious and completely focused individual, a creative genius. How he created and the intensity of his performance was something I could only guess at. This recording provides an educational glimpse into the style, the group dynamic and the personality of the performers.

report by Paul J. Youngman – KJA Jazz Advocate – Dec. '06

The musicians
Thelonious Monk – piano
Charlie Rouse – tenor saxophone
Larry Gales – bass
Ben Riley – drums
The tracks
Norway ’66
Lulu’s Back In Town, Blue Monk, ‘Round Midnight
Denmark ‘66 Lulu’s Back In Town, Don’t Blame Me, Epistrophy
We welcome your comments and feedback
Paul J. Youngman
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