Thelonious Monk: Blue Monk (live at Newport, 1958)

Track

Blue Monk (1958)

Artist

Thelonious Monk (piano)

CD

Jazz On A Summer's Day (original soundtrack) (Snapper/Charly 191)

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Musicians:

Thelonious Monk (piano), Henry Grimes (bass), Roy Haynes (drums).

Composed by Thelonious Monk

.

Recorded: live at Newport Jazz Festival, RI, July 6, 1958

Albumcovervariousartists-jazzonasummersday-originalsoundtrack

Rating: 80/100 (learn more)

The most frequently criticized sequence in Jazz on a Summer's Day, Bert Stern's documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, is Thelonious Monk's performance of "Blue Monk."  Like Jimmy Giuffre before him, Monk repeats a tune he'd played on the previous year's CBS telecast The Sound of Jazz. Monk even sports the same bamboo-framed sunglasses outdoors in July as he'd worn in the TV studio the prior December.

The criticism, though, is never directed at Monk, but rather at the filmmaker for relegating the pianist to background music for distracting aerial shots of the America's Cup trials, filmed by Stern leaning out of a rented Piper Cub over the waters off Newport and proving once again Damon Runyon's timeless axiom that viewing a yacht race is like watching grass grow. Even more annoying than the lumbering boats, however, is the fact that much of Monk's solo is obscured by a nautical sportscaster jabbering from his perch on the bridge of the U.S. Destroyer William R. Rush, strategically deployed at taxpayer expense within 200 yards of the starting line. (Did they fear a British Royal Navy sub might torpedo Columbia, the ultimately victorious New York Yacht Club entry?)

Unfortunately for purists, the original soundtrack CD provides not a pristine "Blue Monk," but a badly mangled compromise. In the process of mercifully stripping the inane prattle from this track, 16 bars of Monk's solo have been mislaid! In lieu of the movie's seven choruses, the CD contains a choppy five and two-thirds choruses—which ain't exactly what God had in mind when He gave Moses the 12-bar blues. Consequently, among the more than two dozen recordings of "Blue Monk" that its composer left us, this track in its present form must rank near the bottom. This criticism, though, is not directed at Thelonious, but towards those who treat his legacy with such disrespect.

Reviewer: Alan Kurtz

If you liked this track, also check out

    Thelonious Monk: "Blue Monk" (live, 1964)

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  • 1 Margaret Davis Grimes // Dec 18, 2008 at 10:38 AM
    The young (22 at the time) bassist playing with Thelonious Monk and Roy Haynes in the butchered "Blue Monk" sequence is none other than the great Henry Grimes. Henry contributed his bass artistry to five different -- very different -- groups in the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival: (going alphabetically) Benny Goodman, Lee Konitz, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, and Tony Scott. And speaking of disrespect, Henry's name never even appeared in the printed programs for the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. Fortunately, the respected critic Bosley Crowther of "The New York Times" noticed the extraordinary scope and quality of Henry's musicianship and made a point of praising him in "The Times." If anyone has a copy of that review, please let me know! Sincerely, Margaret Davis Grimes, http://www.henrygrimes.com, musicmargaret@earthlink.net.
  • 2 Stacy Harris // Jan 06, 2009 at 05:04 AM
    The Game Show Network (GSN) aired a 1958 segment of What's My Line? on January 5, 2009 featuring Benny Goodman as the mystery guest. Moderator John Daly references the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, suggesting some press-generated controversy. Daly tries to elicit Goodman's opinion on what appears to be some sort of innovation or controversial performance re: the just-concluded 1958 festival but Benny refuses to take the bait. Were some of those featured likely too much on the cutting-edge?