Thelonious Monk played at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1963 and created a buzz so strong he was invited back the following year. His one-hour set from 1964 is available here, featuring his quartet through the first forty minutes. Tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and drummer Ben Riley are joined by Steve Swallow on upright acoustic bass loaned from the Art Farmer group, whom he performed with at the event. Having studied Monk's music and played it with Steve Lacy, Swallow was ready to jump into the fray for his first-ever performance with Monk, having not even spoken with the pianist up to show time. He sounds very comfortable, swinging effortlessly, playing mostly quarter notes throughout the concert, but rarely straying off the path. These are typical Monk originals for the time period, and are solidly showcased, with Rouse doing the soloing, Monk traditionally comping, then laying out. Everything is ten-minutes long, portioned out between head, bridge and tail. "Rhythm-A-Ning" is taken at a bit quicker pace than usual, with Monk doing the urging on Rouse's solo, while Swallow and Riley are noticeably more locked in during the "Sweet Georgia Brown" variation "Bright Mississippi." The sound quality is a bit thin, and occasional distorted peaks are heard in the piano and tenor when they get too loud. The final two selections expand to a nonet directed by California icon Buddy Collette. His complementary horn charts are warm and effusive like gentle ocean waves at night, not challenging or pushy. Trumpeter Bobby Bryant's gets two solos, one quite brash and lengthy, and Collette's alto saxophone is also heard briefly in front of the band. Occasionally the horns drift breezily behind solos, and during the finale, "Straight, No Chaser," they punctuate and provocate in clipped phrases. Coming out of the melody they are noticeably slightly out of sync with Rouse. This is an intriguing document, by no means essential, but a unique aside of the many live recordings Monk would do during this historic year in his latter period career.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos