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There is much to be gained from listening to the spontaneous inventiveness that emerges on Thelonious Monk - Palo Alto / THE REHEARSAL STUDIO

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My guess is that, by now, most readers already know the back-story for the recently-released Impulse! Records album Palo Alto, presenting a "live" recording of Thelonious Monk performing at Palo Alto High School on October 27, 1968 and leading a quartet whose other members were Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Larry Gales on bass, and Ben Riley on drums. The concert was arranged by a sixteen-year-old student at the school, Danny Scher; and this was not the first time he had produced a jazz concert there. That first occasion took place about a year earlier with an appearance by pianist Vince Guaraldi and the scat-singing trio known as (Dave) Lambert, (Jon) Hendricks, and (Annie) Ross.

As to the Palo Alto album, it has its own back-story. It only exists because a janitor at Paly decided to make a recording. Since that recording was not mentioned in Kelley's book, it is likely that it only came to light after the book appeared in October of 1999. The program was relatively short, organized around four Monk compositions. Two of them were given roughly quarter-hour treatments with extended improvisations across the entire quartet: "Well, You Needn't" and "Blue Monk." Shorter treatments were given to "Ruby, My Dear" and "Epistrophy," along with a take on Jimmy McHugh's "Don't Blame Me." At the end of the show, Monk took a solo encore with a brief account of Irving Berlin's "I Love You (Sweetheart Of All My Dreams)," which he had recorded in 1964 for Columbia Records.

Where repertoire is concerned, the Monk selections are all familiar. Nevertheless, there is much to be gained from listening to the spontaneous inventiveness that emerges during the longer tracks. Gales' bass work in "Well, You Needn't" is particularly worthy of focused attention. Still, the real virtue of this gig is the history behind it, with the "punch line" of the Nairobi ballot initiative being defeated by a margin of more than two to one!

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