Live at the Concertgebouw - 1961
Live in Rotterdam - 1967
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When he set foot on the stage of Club Doelen on Oct. 28, 1967 in Rotterdam, Thelonious Monk had just turned 50.
15 years later, he disappeared from the music scene and spent his 6 final years in New York, at Pannonica de Koenigswater's, and never touched a piano again.
This concert is a true testament to his genius. Monk was quite the chess player, with finely honed strategic skills and great lucidity. He was something of an architect too – and a demanding one at that; this gig is methodically carried out, and there is an almost mathematic harmony to it. Opening and ending with two “classic pieces”, “Ruby, My Dear” and “Blue Monk”, he led for over 80 minutes the quartet and his accomplices, Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales, Ben Riley, and guests. He meticulously laid the foundations before raising the beams and attending to the circuitry, which gave improvisational cues – and space – to each performer.
Everything is highly contrasted and sounds somehow skewed. Arpeggios follow irregularly, and each note seems a bit surprised by the previous one. Monk smuggles the melody in through the back, before ushering it gloriously to the foreground. And then it's time to conclude with “Blue Monk”, classically cool and composed: the clear sound of the piano opens the piece before giving way to Clark Terry's trumpet; the bass and drums answer it, sounding as though they're striving to weigh it down – but Monk's piano flies to the rescue with almost repetitive notes and, very smoothly, leads the way to the finale. The architect can set down his tools. His house of smoke and sound has been thought out, erected – now it has vanished. What remains is pure art.