The unearthed recording of Thelonious Monk's classic quartet oozes with bootleg charm
Located in present-day Silicon Valley, the Bay Area city of Palo Alto was a most unlikely place to catch a Sunday-matinee performance by Thelonious Monk back in 1968. By that time, Monk's jazz-giant stature had been firmly established, so it was a major coup that a plucky teenager named Danny Scher was able to snag Monk's quartet for an appearance at his local high school. Palo Alto is the document of that performance, which is finally seeing the light of day after Scher, who'd forgotten that the school custodian recorded the show, found the tape in his attic some 15 years ago. At that point, he contacted Monk's son, drummer T.S. Monk, who was surprised to discover that his father had even played a high school at any point in his much-heralded career.
The story behind Palo Alto, which could easily fill this review, oozes with charm and social context, both beautifully captured in liner notes that are worth the price of admission alone, even if you've watched the promotional mini-documentary released by the label. In that same promo clip, T.S. Monk surmises that his father's quartet was so well-oiled by 1968 that "they could [have] set up in a phone booth and sound like the records." Well, Palo Alto doesn't quite sound like it was recorded in a phone booth-it would be worth hearing even if it had been-but listeners should know ahead of time that the fidelity level here falls into bootleg range.
Which is not to say that you can't hear every instrument clearly. On the contrary-many, many acoustic nuances shine through: the greasy resonance as bassist Larry Gales scrapes his strings with a bow during his solo on a 13-minute version of "Well, You Needn't" (with Monk himself humming along), the variety of timbres and colors as drummer Ben Riley's toms pop and cymbals hiss, etc. Riley's drums in particular swell to loud enough volume that they stress the microphones, which creates the illusion that the listener is seated near the drumset and, thus, up close and personal with the musicians onstage.
That said, the recording has a dry, boxed-in character that, for better or worse, defines the listening experience. In strictly psychoacoustic terms, the band feels disembodied from the audience, from the room, and from itself. For one, the quartet itself is literally split up, with Riley and tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse hard-panned to one side of the stereo field and Monk panned to the other along with Gales. Meanwhile, the audience's loud but muffled applause never integrates with the music, much in the same way we'd compare to a modern-era soundboard recording. So it's difficult to get any sense of room ambience, and, as a result, it's also difficult to connect with the band's energy.
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Tom Schnabel's KCRW: Los Angeles - Rhythm Planet playlist picks this week cover a range of new releases and enduring classics that he has returned to repeatedly for emotional and spiritual sustenance. We start with superstar pianist Lang Lang. If you're a fan of Bach's Goldberg Variations and love Glenn Gould's iconic versions-either the 1955 or 1981 sessions-then I recommend checking out Lang Lang's new set. I chose one of the most uncannily difficult variations here. Listening will make you wonder how his hands and fingers can move so quickly!
"This is a very important dream-come-true moment", says Lang Lang. The superstar pianist, who waited 20 years before playing Johann Sebastian Bach's monumental composition in public, has finally achieved his goal of recording the Goldberg Variations. The result of two decades of deep study and personal reflection, his vision of Bach's Aria and 30 Variations is out now on Deutsche Grammophon.
Lang Lang marked the global release of the new album with a special introduction from the historic Temple (東景緣, Dongjingyuan) in Beijing – site of the old imperial printing house and a former Buddhist shrine, meticulously renovated in recent years to preserve its multi-layered history. The pianist performed extracts from the Goldberg Variations and talk about the intense personal connection he feels to Bach's music, as well as answering questions from fans.
Also available from today is a super deluxe edition featuring not only Lang Lang's studio recording but a performance captured live in concert at Leipzig's St. Thomas Church, where the composer worked and is buried. This coupling of studio and live recordings, a world first for the "Goldbergs", offers fascinating insights into the art of interpretation. Lang Lang's performances intensify the work's breath-taking blend of contrapuntal complexity, diverse musical styles and life-affirming spontaneity.
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On the 13th of March 2017, Tommy LiPuma died at the age of 80. The Grammy-adorned producer had, one year prior, began work on a new album for his protege Diana Krall. The Canadian singer was therefore left to mix the record entirely alone...
The calibre of musician on this record is impressive: guitarists Russell Malone and Anthony Wilson, bassists John Clayton and Christian McBride, drummer Karriem Riggins and Bob Dylan's bassist, Tony Garnier, all come along to finish off the recording of This Dream of You. A great fan of Dylan, Krall used a song name from his 2009 album Together Through Life as the title of this 15th album released by Verve. Whether in duet, trio or quartet, Madame Costello plays and sings in diverse contexts but ultimately returns to her preferred repertoire: the Great American Songbook. The standards that have come to be expected a thousand times over are met as if by magic. Autumn in New York by Vernon Duke, How Deep is the Ocean by Irving Berlin and the unmistakeable Singing in the Rain by Gene Kelley as well as other classics from giants like Sinatra and Nat King Cole become her own.
A whisper, a murmur, a refined arrangement, an instrumental treasure, Diana Krall prevails time after time.
One could fault her for not daring to re-imagine the songs more, but when the standard of these renditions is so high and of such depth, we can do nothing but yield and wonder. Also note that for the first time, Diana Krall's face doesn't appear on the album cover!
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This 1969 concert by the Thelonious Monk Quartet was produced by a high school student and recorded by his school's janitor. Its publicity posters were printed up by the Palo Alto High School Graphic Arts Department. The janitor, we are told, received permission (but from whom?) to tape the concert as a reward for his having tuned the piano. Before the concert, only a few tickets were sold, but then a crowd gathered outside the school. People wanted to see Monk and the two opening acts, but didn't necessarily believe that the great pianist/composer would show up. After all he was appearing that night in a club in San Francisco.
Remarkably he did appear, and in a good mood, with his oft-recorded quartet of tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales, and drummer Ben Riley. Equally remarkably the recorded sound, in stereo, is excellent. Its main flaw is the close recording of the drum set, but even that is interesting. That janitor, whose very existence I somehow doubt, had skills. In Palo Alto, Monk played his standard set: four of his most famous originals, the ballad "Don't Blame Me" and, as an encore, a mini-version on solo piano of "I Love You Sweetheart of My Dreams," an obscure song that was introduced into the repertoire by Rudy Vallee and promptly forgotten by everyone but Monk, who used it repeatedly as a short finishing touch to his concerts. (There are a pair of mini versions on his Paris 1969 concert recordings.) At the end, Monk tells the crowd he'd like to play more for them but: "We have to hurry back and get to work, you dig?"
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"The roughest thing is my mom," composer and bandleader Maria Schneider says over the phone on a recent summer morning, answering the first question of almost every conversation in the COVID-19 era: How are you holding up? The New York-based composer/conductor has been in grateful, high gear, safe and healthy at her country home while preparing the release of a new two-record set by the Maria Schneider Orchestra, Data Lords. But Schneider, who grew up in the small farming town of Windom, Minnesota, misses her mother, who's turning 96 in Minneapolis, "in a place where nobody can visit her because they're protecting people.
"And that's good," Schneider goes on. "But I had this dream where I was in a hotel trying to see her and the elevator went to a negative-50th floor and I couldn't get back to her." She laughs brightly, something she does often in conversation. "I woke up and thought, ‘Well, I know what that's about: When am I going to see Mom again?'
Schneider, 59, will not see the road or be in the same room with her orchestra any time soon. But she is pressing forward with Data Lords, her first album since 2015's The Thompson Fields, out via ArtistShare, the fan-funding platform that has issued her work since 2004's Grammy-winning Concert in the Garden. Consisting of 11 pieces over 97 minutes, Data Lords is a boldly conceptual immersion in a critical duality of modern life, now compounded by truly viral calamity: the corporate and political manipulation of our internet addictions (the first disc, subtitled The Digital World) and the endangered wonder and sanctuary around us, made even more remote by lockdown (the second disc, The Natural World).
"I was just writing," Schneider says of the album's thematic genesis. "It's what I always do-write music, then think, ‘It's time to record again.'" But it was "a struggle" to make sense of the growing "hodgepodge" until visual artist Justin Freed, a friend and ArtistShare participant, suggested she make two albums. "I started analyzing the music, analyzing myself: ‘You're thinking about Google a bit too much, girl. And here I can tell you spent some time weeding and watching your bluebirds' nest.' I thought, ‘Wow, this is the struggle, the yin and yang of our life.'" (photo: Briene Lermitte)
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In the fall of 1968, a sixteen-year old high school student named Danny Scher had a dream to invite legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his all-star quartet to perform a concert at his local high school in Palo Alto, CA. In a series of twists and turns, against a backdrop of racial tension and political volatility, that concert was recorded by the school's janitor and finally released in 2020.
Verve Presents: Monk Goes To School tells this story in innovative detail, interweaving the voices of Danny Scher, Thelonius Monk's son T.S. Monk, monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley and engineer/mixer Grandmixer DXT with narrator Anthony Valadez from KCRW.
The podcast is unique in that there is no hosted interview segment – it takes the listener on an immersive journey featuring the voices of the cast, sound design and music clips from the record throughout.
Verve/Impulse! Records and podcast creative studio PopCult are pleased to announce Verve Presents: Monk Goes To School, an innovative podcast that tells the story of Thelonious Monk's storied visit, concert, and subsequent recording at Palo Alto High School in 1968. The Podcast is available on all major platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, and more. Listen to the podcast HERE.
The album Palo Alto was released on September 18
PopCult Founder/Creative Director Dennis Scheyer says, "Once we heard the story of how the record came to be we felt that it deserved more than the usual ‘interview-based' portrayal. It's the kind of show we created our company to produce, and Verve fully supported us."
Recorded entirely "at home" with high-quality microphones across the United States, this podcast deftly weaves through multiple voices, telling this story of Thelonious Monk, the unexpected concert, and of course, uses the music to illustrate this important part of musical history.
EVP of Verve/Impulse! Jamie Krents says, "We're thrilled to collaborate with PopCult on Monk Goes to School. This podcast brilliantly captures the real story of the Palo Alto recording, and puts it in historical context with brilliant narration from all the key players. Impulse! and Verve Records have such a rich history of music that we're very excited to continue to illustrate in partnership with PopCult."
PopCult Partner, Strategy and Marketing Lars Murray says, "We were excited to help Verve establish a leadership position among labels by creating a high-quality narrative podcast that integrates their music seamlessly and tells a great story about a landmark release. Verve demonstrated that a label's access to licensed music is a huge advantage in podcasting."
Palo Alto – Thelonious Monk
Ruby, My Dear
Well, You Needn't
Don't Blame Me
I Love You Sweetheart of All My Dreams
John Finbury started out as a drummer while in high school. Today, he is an established pianist and composer who has offered a variety of music to my listening room. I've heard his original compositions lyrically enriched by Thalma De Freitas, (a Brazilian vocalist and lyricist) on an album titled "Sorte". It was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award. Finbury won another Latin Grammy nomination in 2016 (in the ‘Song of The Year' category) for a piece he penned on his "Imaginario" album. On his "Quatro" album, that I reviewed in 2019, he was celebrating cultural diversity and immigration, employing Peruvian and Mexican music styles in his compositions. There was an activist cry for freedom and justice in the songs he composed. John Finbury, the composer, has immersed himself in Latin music until this project. His current release is a complete surprise. This album eliminates the percussive rhythms and Latin energy he has been noted for in the past. Here is an album of Chamber Music, with jazz over-tones that twine their way into his production. A nocturne is music that reflects a romantic or dreamy quality. To achieve this, Finbury uses no bass or drums at all during these lovely arrangements. Instead, John features accordion, piano, guitar, harmonica and cello. Speaking of cello, Eugene Friesen gives us a dynamic and emotional rendering during his cello work on Track 5, "Fantasma," as does the sweet harmonica work of Roni Eytan. Peter Eldridge adds his vocalise on this tune.
Another favorite of mine is "Black Tea." Notably, I didn't miss the bass and drums at all. The melodic content of these songs is elegant, classical and the arrangements are relaxing to the ear. Finbury gives us a taste of his piano prowess on the final tune, performing solo on "Waltz for Patty." As a unit, these gifted musicians offer us a platter-full of beautifully played "American Nocturnes" that celebrate John Finbury's delicious composing skills. He warmly serves up a romantic project titled, the "Final Days of July" for our consumption.
In the fall of 1968, a sixteen-year old high school student named Danny Scher had a dream to invite legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his all-star quartet to perform a concert at his local high school in Palo Alto, CA.
Violinist Daniel Hope spent his period of social distancing by performing chamber concerts online from his living room in Berlin with specially invited guests including Christoph Israel, Till Brönner, Matthias Goerne and more.
World-renowned singer-songwriter Melody Gardot announces her long-awaited new album along with the release of a highly anticipated single which sees her join forces with 17-time Grammy Award winning music icon Sting.
Caroline Shaw's 'And So,' performed by PBO with ASVO makes CapRadio - Ear To Ear
Posted: August 5, 2020 12:00 AM
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No doubt, you've heard some new music in rotation lately on KXPR - music that seemingly stands a bit outside of what you are used to hearing on the classical station. There's no question that the standard European repertory that we've come to associate with classical music is important. The music is beautiful, powerful, and well, classic. But there's a whole world of amazing and unique classical music either rarely presented or being created right now across the globe. On KXPR, we want to bring you examples of the diverse face of classical music today. Among our few examples of the broad classical music reach we're spinning, from Manhattan (New York OR Kansas) to Mumbai is....
She utilizes the rest of the orchestra very carefully as they pluck their way through the second verse, all the while momentum builds in the stunning mezzo-soprano voice of opera star Anne Sophie von Otter. Caroline Shaw is an expert at writing gorgeous melodies that weave through unique textures in the ensemble. "And So" is part of a larger song cycle called "Is A Rose" that juxtaposes 18th and 21st-century poetry and music.
As part of the organization's ongoing efforts to bring recorded music to audiences the world over, and especially during the COVID-19 crisis, Philharmonia Baroque Productions unexpectedly releases the live audio recording of Handel's Saul, the award-winning performances from April 2019, led by Handelian expert and outgoing PBO Music Director Nicholas McGegan. With an all-star cast featuring rising star countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen as David, alongside the Orchestra & Chorale, this June 5 digital-only release marks the 14th on Philharmonia's recording label, and Nicholas McGegan's final recording with the ensemble he has led for 35 years.
Philharmonia Baroque Productions to release pioneering recording of commissions by Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw. The collection features song cycle with Anne Sofie von Otter and a major work for chorus and orchestra with Avery Amereau & Dashon Burton
This April, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) breaks new ground as a pioneer in bridging new music with old instruments-as PBO announces a collection of commissioned works composed by GRAMMY- and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw. "PBO& Caroline Shaw", the 12th release on the Philharmonia Baroque Productions label, coincides with the launch of the "PBO&" imprimatur, created to record and showcase vital contemporary composers who are committed to composing for the unique sounds of period instruments. The recording will be released on April 3 and reflects the range and versatility of Philharmonia's programming with music spanning the 18th to the 21st centuries.
Handel's late-career oratorio Joseph and his Brethren, though popular during Handel's day, eventually became one of the composer's most neglected large-scale works. As such, Joseph had only been recorded once before Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale decided to take it on for its latest recording project, the 11th on the Philharmonia Baroque Productions label. With a cast of early music specialists led by noted Handelian Nicholas McGegan, PBO makes a strong case for Joseph to regain its place among Handel's most often-performed oratorios such as Samson, Judas Maccabaeus, and Israel in Egypt.
The formidable cast includes the award-winning Philharmonia Chorale led by Bruce Lamott; mezzo-soprano Diana Moore as Joseph; tenor and GRAMMY nominee Nicholas Phan as Simeon and Judah, two of Joseph's brothers; soprano Sherezade Panthaki as Asenath, daughter of the high priest; and baritone Philip Cutlip as Pharaoh and Reuben, Joseph's eldest brother. Phan, who will sing the title role in Handel's Judas Maccabaeus during PBO's 2019/20 season, gives dramatic depth to the character of Simeon, who undergoes remarkable development, from fierce and tortured to pious and sympathetic, worthy of Joseph's tears. The character of Asenath, originally portrayed by French soprano Élisabeth Duparc, for whom the title role in Semele was created, has several dazzling arias, particularly "Prophetic raptures swell my breast" in Part III. They are executed with show-stopping gusto by Panthaki.
In order to appease the somewhat provincial tastes of King Louis XV, composer Jean-Philippe Rameau and his librettist Voltaire altered the original version of Le Temple de la Gloire, and for centuries it was lost. The manuscript was discovered-at the University of California, Berkeley's Jean Hargrove Music Library and was brought to the attention of conductor Nicholas McGegan. For decades, maestro McGegan dreamed of reviving the original work-a dream realized in April 2017 through a partnership between Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, Centre de musique de Versailles in France and New York Baroque Dance Company.