Inside with Thelonius Monk


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

August 13, 1964, Vol. IX, No. 43

Inside with Monk

By J. R. Goddard

For the second straight week I’ve lucked on some good Village jazz, which makes me feel a little like Columbus discovering both North and South America on one quick boatride. Monk is the man who’s turning it out at the Village Gate, and though most of his playing is of a fine-spun lightness sometimes it also verges on the profound.

The bearded, straw hatted one opens with a quiet formality, as if he’s there to play for exactly one hour and in that hour he will give you your money’s worth of technique and feeling. But he gives you dividends too. With his humors docked and everything working toward successful performance those fantastic chords of his seem to roll of the piano all by themselves. The set builds, Monk’s right foot dances faster and faster on the floor, the chords grow more complex without seeming to, and by the end you’re right inside things with him.

His sidemen, I might add, do Thelonius justice.

With him are his old trusty sax man Charlie Rouse, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and Ben Riley on drums. All have their moments, doing equally nice and unstrained things.

Mongo Santamaria, the famous conga drummer, opens the show with his platoon sized Latin-type jazz group. With him is Carmelo Garcia on drums, and a host more sidemen playing horns, saxes, flutes, cowbells, and God knows what else. It’s a happy sound, the rhythms are interesting, and Santamaria himself is fun to watch as he does his rolling, ecstatic drum solos. But there’s little depth to it.

Comic Flip Wilson, reviewed a couple of weeks ago in this column, rounds out the program. Also scheduled to appear on the big Gate bill on weekends is the Gerry Mulligan group. Monk, Mongo, Mulligon — Art D’Lugoff must be made of solid gold!

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]