Friday, July 2, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Thelonious Monk (reissue)
Something In Blue

Black Lion/Pure Pleasure BLPP30119 180g LP

Produced by: Alan Bates
Engineered by: John Timperley
Mixed by: John Timperley
Mastered by: Ray Staff at Air Mastering

Review by: Michael Fremer

Fifty four year old Thelonious Monk was considered “washed up” by many when this European session was recorded in 1971. He’d ended his association with Columbia Records and while he made some good records for the most commerical label with which he’d be associated, he’d not written much new material during that period.

The greatness of his long recording career for Blue Note, Prestige and of course his productive years at Riverside continue to delight new generations of jazz fans. Those recordings and of course Monk himself will never go out of style.

By 1971 Monk didn’t have a recording contract and made few live appearances. These sessions recorded for the U.K. based Black Lion label and originally issued in America on awfully pressed vinyl by Audio Fidelity were his final as a group leader, though calling him that here is probably a stretch.

Though Monk wasn’t active during this period because, some say, he was mentally ill, he participated in a worldwide tour featuring many other jazz luminaries including Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie, Al McKibbon and Art Blakey, the latter two of whom accompany Monk here.

Far from sounding “washed up,” Monk went into the studio the night after the final concert of the eight week “Giants of Jazz Tour” and recorded this superbly recorded album for Alan Bates’s Black Lion label. Yes, that Alan Bates: the British film actor who starred in so many memorable movies including Zorba the Greek where he played the eligible bachelor to Anthony Quinn’s unforgettable Zorba.

Engineer Jonathan Timperley gives Monk center stage and stage-left too, putting Monk’s left hand in the center and his right hand stage-left where he also scrunches Blakey’s drums. This set was all about Monk and no doubt McKibbon and Blakey were happy to play second rhythm section to Monk.

Monk performs his classics along with a typically off-kilter cover of George and Ira Gershwin’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” The set begins with a pure stride version of “Blue Sphere,” then a spirited “Hackensack,” followed by the cover and then a devilish “Criss-Cross” to end the side.
There’s nothing weak, indecisive or “washed up” about Monk’s playing here. He sounds strong, in great humor and thoroughly engaged.

Side two tracks four Monk faves: “Something In Blue,” “Evidence,” “Jackie-ing,” and “Nutty,” with Monk giving all of them a “roots” reading: relatively slow, deliberate and well-enunciated. The solo reading of “Something In Blue” is alone worth the album’s cost.

The piano sound is absolutely superb harmonically, texturally and especially dynamically. It’s big, intimate and close with the hand separation giving you unusually clear access to Monk’s musical thinking. London’s Chappell Studio rolled in a nice piano for Monk to play.

Obviously, this album is not an essential title in Monk’s long recording career but it’s one fans will really dig having and for those unfamiliar, a really great sounding, intimate introduction. Plus it’s his last studio recording and among his best sounding ones.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

This Date In Music History - July 2


Tom Springfield - Springfields (1936)

Leapy Lee (Lee Graham) (1942)

Peter Cruickshank - Groundhogs (1945)

Roy Bittan - "The Professor", piano, organ, accordion and synthesizers with Bruce Springsteen E Street Band. Also worked with David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Dire Straits, Peter Gabriel, Meat Loaf, Stevie Nicks, Bob Seger (1949)

Joe Puerta - Bruce Hornsby & The Range (1951)

Johnny Colla - Huey Lewis and the News (1952)

Pete Briquette - Boomtown Rats (1954)

Jerry Hall - US model, actress. Married Rolling Stone Mick Jagger in 1990 (1955)

Mike Anger - Blow Monkeys (1957)

Paul Geary - Extreme (1961)

Roy Boulter - The Farm (1964)

Dave Parsons - Bush (1965)

Rocky Gray - Evanescence (1974)

Michelle Branch (1983)

Celebrating a birthday today - Ashley Michelle Tisdale (1985), actress and singer from High School Musical, as part of the cast had the 2006 US #1 ‘High School Musical’ album and 2007, US #1 ‘High School Musical 2’ album. Over 17 million viewers in the US watched the TV premier of High School Musical; making it the highest rated basic cable broadcast in US history. Released her debut album ’Headstrong’ in 2007.

They Are Missed:

Born on this day in 1940, Paul Williams, vocals, The Temptations. Died on August 17, 1973 after shooting himself.

Born today in 1926, Lee Allen, saxophonist, worked with Fats Domino, Little Richard, Shirley & Lee. Died on October 18, 1994.

Lyricist Hy Zaret, who wrote the words for the song "Unchained Melody," died at his home in Westport, Connecticut in 2007 (age 99). The song (which does not feature the word "unchained"), has been recorded over 300 times. Zaret co-wrote the song with film composer Alex North for the 1955 prison film Unchained. The Righteous Brothers' 1965 version was produced by Phil Spector.


"The Lawrence Welk Show" premiered on ABC-TV in 1955.

In 1956, Elvis Presley recorded "Hound Dog" at RCA Studios, New York with take 31 being the version they released. This was the first time The Jordanaires worked with Presley. The tune was originally an R&B hit for Willie Mae (Big Mama) Thornton. “Don’t Be Cruel,” Elvis’ biggest ‘50's hit was also recorded.

Buddy Holly's first single, "Love Me," was released in 1956.

“King Creole,” one of Elvis Presley’s better movies, opened in 1959.

In 1962, Jimi Hendrix was honorably discharged from the 101st Airborne Paratroopers, after breaking his ankle during his 26th and final parachute jump.

The Beach Boys and Sam the Sham appeared at the Community Concourse, San Diego, California in 1965.

Frank Sinatra went to #1 on the US singles chart in 1966 with "Strangers In The Night." The song was taken from the film 'A Man Could Get Killed'. Also a #1 in the UK.

In 1966, David Bowie and The Lower Third appeared at The Lion Hotel in Warrington, England, (they were paid £30 for the gig). Also appearing was The Powerhouse which featured Eric Clapton Jack Bruce, Steve Winwood and Paul Jones.

Working at Abbey Road in 1969, Paul McCartney recorded "Her Majesty." Then Paul, George, and Ringo record 15 takes of "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight." John Lennon was absent, in hospital in Golspie, Scotland, following a car accident the previous day.

Mountain formed in 1969.

Thunderclap Newman started a three week run at #1 on the UK singles chart with the Pete Townshend produced track "Something In The Air." Featured on the soundtrack for the movie, 'The Magic Christian.' The band featured guitarist Jimmy McCulloch who went on to work with Wings.

Bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell quit the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969 after completing the three-day Denver Pop Festival. Hendrix and drummer Mitch Mitchell would later team with bassist Billy Cox to form the short-lived Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, who played at the Woodstock Festival.

Queen appeared at Surrey College, England in 1971. This was the group's first gig with the line-up of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon.

Roxy Music's synthesiser player Brian Eno quit in 1973 after personality clashes with the bands singer Bryan Ferry.

In 1976 - For the first time in 12 years, Brian Wilson joined the Beach Boys on stage. The next night the show was recorded for an NBC Beach Boys special.

Bill Conti went to #1 on the US singles chart in 1977 with "Gonna Fly Now" (Theme from Rocky).

In 1980, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart from The Grateful Dead were arrested on suspicion of starting a riot at the San Diego Sports Arena after they tried to interfere in a drugs bust.

In 1984 - Epic Records set a record as two million copies of the Jacksons’ 'Victory' were shipped to stores. It was the first time that such a large initial shipment had been made.

The Prince movie "Under The Cherry Moon" was released in 1986.

In 1988, Michael Jackson became the first artist to have five number one singles from one album when "Dirty Diana" went to the top of the US charts. The other four chart-toppers from the LP 'Bad’ were the title track, "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "Man in the Mirror."

Tracy Chapman started a three-week run at #1 on the UK album chart in 1988 with her self-titled debut LP. Helped by her performance at the 'Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute Concert' at Wembley Stadium, also #1 in the US.

In 1990, representatives of the Italian Catholic Church announced that they would attempt to halt Madonna's concerts in Rome because of her alleged inappropiate use of crucifixes and sacred symbols.

"Dr. Demento 20th Anniversary Collection: The Greatest Novelty Records Of All Time" was released in 1991.

Also in 1991, Axl Rose caused a riot to break out during a Guns N' Roses gig after leaping into the crowd to remove a camera from a fan at the Riverpoint Amphitheatre, Maryland Heights. Over 50 people were injured and 15 fans were arrested.

Mick Jagger became a grandfather in 1992 when his daughter Jade gave birth

In 1999, R.E.M. Skunk Anansie, Barenaked Ladies, Blur, Blondie, Built To Spill, The Chemical Brothers, Marilyn Manson, Metallica, Placebo, Suede and Wilco all appeared at this years Oskilde Festival, Roskilde, Denmark.

Liverpool Airport at Speke was renamed John Lennon Airport in 2001. Yoko Ono was present to unveil a new logo that included the late Beatle's famous self- portrait and the words, 'Above Us Only Sky' taken from his 'Imagine' album.

"Shenanigans," a collection of Green Day rarities and B-sides, arrived in stores in 2002.

In 2005, the world's biggest music stars united in concerts around the world to put pressure on political leaders ahead of the G8 summit to tackle poverty in Africa. Concerts in 10 cities, including London, Philadelphia, Paris, Berlin, Johannesburg, Rome and Moscow played to hundreds of thousands of people. A TV audience of several hundred million watched the gigs. In London Pink Floyd, The Who, Madonna, U2, Coldplay, Sting, The Scissor Sisters, Keane, and Paul McCartney performed. Philadelphia saw, Destiny's Child, Jay-Z and Bon Jovi, Canada, Bryan Adams and Neil Young headlined, Bjork headlined in Tokyo and Green Day played in Berlin.