This is the first of a two-part document on the Thelonious Monk Quartet at the famed Olympia Theatre in Paris. Here is Monk's great band featuring Charlie Rouse on saxophones, Larry Gales on bass, and Ben Riley on drums, working through one of the stranger programs Monk fed audiences in 1965. The set opens with a wiggy version of "Evidence," where the opening line has an extended harmonic vamp and opens right into Rouse's solo. As the piece all but segues into "Blue Monk," it becomes obvious how comfortable Monk is with the Parisian audiences. Remember, 1965 was not the best year for him in America. Here Monk takes his rhythmic system and opens up the harmonic channels, registered stunning flows of thought in tandem with Gales and Riley, and Rouse has to struggle to keep up with how out the music is. When Monk shakes loose his own program and covers "Sweet and Lovely," Rouse finds the ground he's looking for and delivers a gorgeous solo in an off-interval setting. The set closes with back-to-back knockout versions of "Rhythm-A-Ning" and "Epistrophy." There are intervallic shifts on both tunes that use pedal points and accents off the backbeat by Monk you might not have ever heard employed before. The sound quality is a slight bit dodgy, with a small bit of distortion, but everything can be heard just fine. This and the March 7th set are highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek