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Thelonious Monk - Palo Alto. Could anything be less likely? / the arts fuse

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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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