Crepuscule with Nellie
Six in One
Well, You Neednít
Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are
By and By (Weíll Understand It Better By and By)
Crepuscule with Nellie (take 1)
Pannonica (45 master)
Light Blue (45 master)
Well, You Neednít (unedited)
Light Blue (making of)
Thelonious Monk Quintet
Thelonious Monk (piano)
Charlie Rouse (tenor saxophone)
Barney Wilen (tenor saxophone)
Sam Jones (double bass)
Art Taylor (drums)
Nola Penthouse Sound Studios,
111 W. 57th St., New York.
Monday, July 27, 1959
The story of how this album came about makes a fascinating read. The
producers contacted Laurent Guenoun, custodian of Marcel Romano's archives.
Romano had been the manager of Barney Wilen, the French saxophonist. They
were in search of unreleased material. With Wilen they drew a blank, but
their endeavours unearthed other treasures. Guenoun had a cache of tapes
marked 'Thelonious Monk' which turned out to be the soundtrack and
recording sessions for Roger Vadimís 1960 film Les Liaisons Dangereuses, an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de
Laclosí 18th century novel. Monk had recorded about 30 minutes of music for
the film, never issued as a stand-alone album. Remarkably it had been set
down in New York on a single day - July 27, 1959. This first official
release, courtesy of Sam Records, has the imprimatur of the Thelonious Monk
Estate. This year marks the centenary of Monk's birth, and I can think of
no better way to mark this significant milestone.
Monk wrote nothing new for the film, but utilized music that already
existed in his repertoire; he seemed disinterested in financial gain.
Although an avid filmgoer, he had no previous experience of film scores. At
the time he was approached, he was busy, in constant demand, overworked and
beset by personal tragedies. Mental health issues, he suffered from bipolar
disorder, had a bearing on the situation. After some prevarications, he saw
the film and eventually signed a contract. He didn't make it to Paris,
where the recording sessions were originally intended to take place, so the
producers and engineers came to him in New York. These recorded gems
capture Monk at the height of his powers.
The Quintet consists of Monk on piano, Charlie Rouse and Barney Wilen on
tenor sax, Sam Jones on double bass and Art Taylor on drums. "Rhythm-A-Ning" , "Well You Needn't" and " Six in One" are spirited and animated and one senses a real joy in
the music-making. "Crepuscule with Nellie" (his wife) and " By and By" offer an element of contrast by softening the pace. The
latter is a gospel hymn and seems a fitting end to the soundtrack. " Pannonica", named after Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, a
friend of Monk, exists in three versions, two for solo piano and one for
quintet. Disc 2 offers alternate takes. "Pannonica" and " Light Blue" are 45 masters, but the most substantial offering is a
14 minute rehearsal sequence of the making of "Light Blue"
containing plenty of dialogue. It makes for an absorbing listen.
I'm astonished how well these recordings sound. The source material for the
album, the master tapes in this case, have obviously been well-preserved.
FranÁois LÍ Xu‚nís superb transfers and remasterings breathe new life into
these nearly sixty year old recordings, and they emerge with the freshness
and vitality as the day they were set down.
Sam Records have gone to town on this release. The whole package is
aesthetically appealing. The two CDs are housed in a sturdy, attractive
tri-fold cardboard sleeve. Also included is a 56 page booklet featuring
several interesting articles by various contributors, providing context and
background to the making of these recordings. There are both black and
white and colour photos of the New York sessions and a couple of still
shots from the film itself. An outer card case supports both.
It all constitutes a most desirable acquisition.