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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

more on total creamer of discovery..

from the AP hot off the wires:

The library also announced Tuesday the discovery of 55 minutes of tape made by Thelonious Monk's jazz quartet, including tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, in Carnegie Hall. The concert was not commercially recorded. It was found by Larry Appelbaum, the library's jazz specialist and acting head of its magnetic recording lab, when he was making digital recordings of tapes recorded by the Voice of America in 1957 for broadcast abroad.

Can you imagine Mr. Appelbaum's joy?! The man has done all jazz lovers a great service and in one fell swoop justified his salary (assuming this is released and pronto! its been waiting 47 years for release!).. as far as i know there aren't that many live recordings of Monk with Coltrane (Coltrane played with Monk for only a few months- largely at the Five Spot Club- before returning to Miles Davis' first great quintet from which he had been banished due to problems with drugs- a habit he completely kicked btw)..the only live recordings are pretty poor ones at the Five Spot per this review of the Thelonious Monk Box Set: The Complete Blue Note Recordings listed at here and reviewed thusly:

Yes, the sound quality on the live set with Coltrane is poor, but a complaint about that is meaningless. The gig was recorded on a cheap tape deck with no professional quality or intent, and the set is what it is, a find, never intended as a record. But the music comes through all the same, better to be with it than without it.

well if the voice of america recorded this at carnegie hall i think its safe to say this will have been a professional job and will far and away eclipse previously known recordings which are essentially caveman era bootlegs..

the web site found here describes this interesting period in more detail but i liberally reproduce below:

Over 1956 and into 1957 this group (Wolff Note: first great Miles Quintet) released an amazing string of recordings-Walkin', Relaxing, Steaming, and Cooking-that demonstrated the band's complete mastery of the musical language of jazz at that time. It is hardly surprising that both Davis and Coltrane sought new places to go after this group, because it seemed there was nothing for them to do within the confines of hard bop but to continue to repeat the perfection they had attained. Coltrane managed to break his drug habit while playing with Miles, but he relapsed and continued to drink a lot as well. Finally, Davis, feeling that the music was suffering (and perhaps motivated, too, by concern for Coltrane's welfare) asked Trane to leave the group. Davis moved on to make his seminal recordings with arranger Gil Evans while Trane did what he had always done-return to home base in Philadelphia and take whatever gigs were available.

Something happened, though, in 1957, something that can only be characterized as a type of epiphany or spiritual awakening. If you read William James' Varieties of Religious Experience you can see all the signs of a personal epiphany in Coltrane's description of what occurred:

"During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD."

That description is from the liner notes of Coltrane's album A Love Supreme, which wasn't recorded and released until seven years after this event. Yet the intensity with which Coltrane musically conveys the experience is such that it could have happened yesterday. In any case, at this time Coltrane locked himself in a bedroom and consumed nothing but water for a period of several days (less than a week) and went cold turkey from heroin, not to mention alcohol, smoking, and sugar. He was almost completely successful at kicking all his bad habits-he did smoke tobacco from time to time-and from this point on began to develop ferociously as a musician as well as to take on a type of spiritual quest as well, constantly seeking something, though no one, perhaps not even Coltrane, could say just what he was seeking.


Coltrane was now ready to play seriously, but lacked a band of his own. Fortunately, he was tapped by Thelonious Monk to play an engagement at New York's Five Spot Club. The Thelonious Monk Quartet consisted of Monk, Coltrane, bassist Wilbur Ware, and drummer Shadow Wilson. Monk was already known for his Riverside albums, including Brilliant Corners, which he had recorded only the previous year, with none other than Sonny Rollins on tenor (one senses that Coltrane was afforded more than one opportunity by his early stylistic similarities to Rollins). Monk's music was harmonically complex and filled with melodic and rhythmic irregularities that were exactly what Coltrane needed to be playing at that time. The Five Spot gig turned out to be a lengthy one, lasting several months and further cementing Monk's formidable reputation. Those who came to hear Monk play were mostly serious jazz fans, and this gave Coltrane an audience that he didn't have to "play down to". Monk also taught Coltrane a lot about harmonic structure and chords, as Coltrane readily acknowledged: "I would talk to Monk about musical problems, and he would show me the answers by playing them on the piano. He gave me complete freedom in my playing, and no one ever did that before."

Often, Coltrane had to grapple with Monk's tunes on the bandstand without the benefit of supporting piano chords from Monk himself. For when Monk had finished soloing he would "stroll", performing a dervish dance around the bandstand, whirling, stomping his foot, and often conducting an imaginary orchestra. Iggy Termini, co-owner of The Five Spot, recalls:

"I remember Monk doing his dancing bit. But sometimes, after he was through dancing, he'd wander into the kitchen and start talking to the dishwasher about God knows what. Once in a while he'd fall asleep at the piano, and when it was time for him to come in again, he'd wake up and start playing, just like that."

The group didn't record much, but there is available an album of six tracks including "Monk's Mood", "Ruby My Dear", and "Nutty." They demonstrate that Coltrane was beginning to develop what Ira Gitler referred to as "sheets of sound", which is to say that notes were played so rapidly that they could only be heard as "shapes" rather than as individual notes. Coltrane had absorbed the harmonic changes wrought by bebop and was substituting two or more chord changes for every single chord change in the standards and other compositions he was playing. He needed to play more notes to keep up with these myriad chord substitutions, often playing at a rate of nearly a thousand notes a minute. At this point he wasn't always in control of what he was playing, but it did indicate what was to come.

When the engagement with Monk ended, Coltrane was able to return to Miles Davis' quintet

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