Live at The Jazz Workshop - Complete
(Columbia / Legacy)

THELONIOUS MONK: Live at The Jazz Workshop - Complete (Columbia / Legacy)Back in March of 1998, the folks at Legacy released the excellent Live at the It Club - Complete, a double CD of Monk and his quartet recorded in Los Angeles in 1964. Monk's concerts during that year were consistently first-rate, and these shows were no exception. If you own a copy of the It Club CDs, you probably noticed in the liner notes that there were plans to reissue the legendary performances from the Jazz Workshop. Well, after almost three and a half years, they're finally in the stores.

The tapes from these shows sat in the vaults at Columbia Records until shortly after Monk's death in 1982. Never issued on CD in the U.S., the new CDs feature thirteen previously unreleased tracks, plus three that were restored to their original lengths. For those of you keeping track of this sort of thing, that adds up to twice as much music as the original double LP. Monk's quartet on this tour was made up of the inimitable Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, Larry Gales on bass, and Ben Riley on drums.

The quartet is spot on throughout the two CDs, loaded with classics from the Thelonious songbook. Comparing this to the Monk in Tokyo set is like night and day. Aside from the fact that there is an additional hour of music on the Jazz Workshop CDs, the band is much more dynamic as well. Gales' bass work is much livelier than Butch Warren's ever was, and while Riley's drumming emulates some of the trademark Blakey fills, he still manages to retain his own style.

Disc one features most of the songs from the original release, and is loaded with Monk brilliance. After an inspired workout from Rouse on "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are," Monk turns in what can only be described as a classic solo--quoting a brief chorus of "Blue Monk" in the process. On "Well You Needn't," Rouse again leads the solos, followed by Monk, Gales and Riley. After the drum solo, Rouse and the others come in to bring it to a close. A slightly faster (and shorter) rendition of the song also appears on the second disc.

With the exception of "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," the second CD is the better of the two. Not that anything on disc one is a slouch, but disc two may as well be titled Monk's Greatest Hits. It's hard to go wrong with tunes like "Blue Monk," "'Round Midnight," "Straight, No Chaser," "Bemsha Swing"… This list goes on and on.

The sound quality on the CDs is crystal clear. These sessions could have been recorded yesterday. Like the recording at the It Club, this set of tunes is chock full of playfully beautiful renditions of back-to-back jazz standards. My only real complaint (like Monk in Tokyo) is the use of the bulky double-disc packaging, as opposed to a slim-line jewel box. Aside from that (which is really immaterial--after all, it's the music that matters), Live at The Jazz Workshop is essential for both seasoned Monkophiles and newbies alike.

© 2001 Steve Marshall
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