Shades of Blue Blog Post #3 - Thelonious Monk & John Coltrane - Bye-Ya
After considering Coleman Hawkins and Thelonious Monk’s musical relationship, as well as Hawk’s influence on the pianist, a Monk recording was an obvious choice for my next post.
This track comes from Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall on Blue Note Records, recorded in 1957 but not rediscovered until 2005, and then restored by Michael Cuscuna and T.S. Monk, Thelonious’ son. This discovery has been described as the equivalent, for the jazz community, of finding a new Mt. Everest. The concert was a benefit produced for the Morningside Community Center in Harlem. Other acts on the bill included: Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Sonny Rollins and Chet Baker with Zoot Sims.
Monk and Trane had a six month residency at the Five Spot club in New York City, a series of performances that became legendary even in their own time, and this performance at Carnegie Hall represents the group at their peak. Coltrane came to play with Monk after the band he had been working in, Miles Davis’ ‘First Great Quintet’ disbanded, partially due to Coltrane’s heroin use. Much of Trane’s growth as a musician happened during his time with Monk. He said in a 1960 release of Downbeat magazine: “Working with Monk brought me close to a musical architect of the highest order. I felt I learned from him in every way—through the senses, theoretically, technically. I would talk to Monk about musical problems, and he would sit at the piano and show me the answers just by playing them. I could watch him play and find out the things I wanted to know. Also, I could see a lot of things that I didn’t know about at all”.
After his time with Monk, Trane would rejoin Miles Davis for the albums Milestones and Kind of Blue, perfecting the style he had been working on with Monk that critic Ira Gitler referred to as “sheets of sound”. Besides the technical progress Trane made with Monk, he also became immensely popular during and after the Five Spot gig and was considered the great tenorman of the time, knocking Sonny Rollins from the position. Rollins, who had worked with Monk extensively before Coltrane, became frustrated with his playing and took a famous sabbatical that became known as ‘The Bridge Period’…
Thelonious Monk - Piano
John Coltrane - Tenor Sax
Ahmed Abdul-Malik - Bass
Shadow Wilson - Drums