Friday, July 17, 2009

Best Live Jazz: Monk at the Five Spot

I am inspired to do a series of posts on 'best live jazz.' That's best out of my collection, of course. I have a modestly competent collection of hard bop and avant garde jazz albums. But that leaves a universe of great recordings out of my reach. Something else that's out of my reach is the level of jazz criticism in Stanley Crouch's Considering Genius. I have been reading Crouch on jazz and culture for more than twenty years. He is a musician himself and for that and other reasons writes with an authority that I can never measure up to. No one that I have read has a greater grasp of the whole trajectory of modern jazz, nor a finer ear for the action of any jazz composition, let alone the genius to put them together.

In Considering Genius Crouch has an essay on Thelonious Monk at the Five Spot. Rereading it this evening, I resolved to begin this series. Two albums came out of this 1958 date: Misterioso, and Thelonious Monk In Action. I'll let Crouch speak:
With a quartet that included a tenor saxophonist with the intellectual, emotional, and technical skills of Johnny Griffin, Monk was able to realize his orchestral desires by using the entire range of the horn, pivoting the motion of the band off the bass, with the piano and trap drums creating an ongoing arrangement of textural, harmonic, and melodic development.
Wow. I half understand that. Listening to the two albums, I can sorta see what he was hearing. Griffin was indeed amazing. These two albums are stellar examples of what can be achieved by a band of real genius in a small club setting. Ahmed Abdul-Malik is on bass, and Roy Haynes is on drums. Crouch has some fine praise for Haynes, but more for Griffin. The best I can do is say I have been enamored of Griffin's horn for a long time.

Here is a sample:
Thelonious Monk/Round Midnight/Misterioso
Drop me a line if you find this worth listening to.


  1. Most of the tunes you make us isten to are worth it! :-)
    I was wondering what you think of the lady jazz pianist Barbara Carroll? Discovered her recently.
    Thanks for yr great blog.

  2. I thought I posted a reply this morning, but it isn't here. So: Thanks Ravel. I don't know Barbara Carroll, but I will look her up now. I am glad you like the tunes. I just want to share the love. Please comment when you have the time. I makes me feel loved.

  3. Jazz music is wondeful, is a comfortable rhythm. Every time that i am listen this kind of music i usually fell relax. Actually i am reading about it frequently becouse i love it. In my search i found a site called costa rica investment opportunities it seem interesting, so i invite you to go there.