After Delay, New Live Monk Set Due Out Sept. 18

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Thelonious Monk and Larry Gales perform during 1968.

(Photo: Lee Tanner/Impulse)

A surprise gig in 1968 by Thelonious Monk that was captured on tape by a school janitor is set for a Sept. 18 release as Palo Alto (Impulse). The album originally was slated for a July 31 release.

“That performance is one of the best live recordings I’ve ever heard by Thelonious,” T.S. Monk, the pianist’s son, said in a press release. “I wasn’t even aware of my dad playing a high school gig, but he and the band were on it. When I first heard the tape, from the first measure, I knew my father was feeling really good.”

While amid a three-week run at San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop, Monk received a call from Danny Scher, a student at Palo Alto High School, asking the bop progenitor to make an appearance at his South Bay school. There had been tensions among Black and white students at the school, according to the release, and the nation still was grieving the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. The Vietnam War also was tearing at the country’s conscience at the time.

“I always looked at music as a way to put issues on hold or up to a mirror, whether they be political or social,” said Scher, who’d go on to work for concert promoter Bill Graham. “On October 27, 1968, there was a truce between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. And that is what music does.”

Monk and his ensemble—tenorist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley—headed south that day in the Schers’ van and subsequently launched into the 47-minute, six-song set that constitutes Palo Alto. The release, while filling out a unique and resonant moment in American history, also marks the first album in a planned five-year collaboration between Impulse and the Monk estate’s Rhythm-A-Ning Entertainment to bring more of the pianist’s work to light. DB

Palo Alto track listing:

Ruby, My Dear

Well, You Needn’t

Don’t Blame Me

Blue Monk

Epistrophy

I Love You (Sweetheart Of All My Dreams)

Updated Sept. 8



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