Never before released material from one of the jazz world's most influential musicians. Paris 1969 is a stunning document of Thelonious Monk late in his career. The pianist was 52 in 1969 and had already seen his career peak in the early 60s after first achieving success in the late 50s. His body was aging while jazz was falling by the wayside to rock and the resulting jazz fusion movement. Two members of his quartet, drummer Ben Riley and bassist Larry Gales, ended up leaving after Monk's record contract with Columbia was brought to an end. This left Monk with two chairs to fill shortly before he was about to embark on a European tour. Fortunately he found two young musicians, bassist Nate Hygelund and drummer Paris Wright, to fill out the quartet along with his longtime tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. They had time to come together before hitting Paris with a lengthy engagement in London followed by stops in Germany and Italy. You can hear how they were playing by the time they arrived in Paris. This made for a triumphant return to the City of Lights for Monk. When he made his debut there in 1954 he was met with a hostile audience who felt he was too avant-garde. In 1969 the enthusiastic audience had warmed to his style and the show was even broadcast on TV. The 2 LPs cover Monk classics like "I Mean You," "Straight No Chaser," and "Blue Monk," along with solo piano performances on "Don't Blame Me," "I Love You Sweetheart Of All My Dreams," and "Crepuscule With Nellie." The highlight comes late in the album as veteran drummer Philly Joe Jones takes over for Wright and turns out an energetic version of Monk’s "Nutty."
- music label: Blue Note 2013
reviewed by Michu Meszaros 12/2013
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