UPDATE: February 7, 2021: Harry M photos added. Monk and Rouse at Jazz Expo 1969
With the burgeoning release schedule of audiophile Blue Note, Tone Poets, and Music Matters, I thought it a good time to re-aquaint myself with some of the Mosaic boxsets on my shelf. Many now out of print, some with as many as 10 LPs in the box, I haven’t played them as often as I should, given what they cost. The number of LPs in the box can feel intimidating, but it works in bite-size chunks.
Enough of the ’70s funky spiritual vibe for now, back to basics: Monk, at the “It” Club, 1964. With four LPs in the box, let’s dig in, some bonus extra selections to accompany the post.Selection 1: Rhythm-a-Ning (Monk)
. . .
One of the most familiar Monk tunes, jumpy , energetic. A musician’s take: “Monk never plays predictable patterns, he trips and stumbles and staggers through the changes, yet somehow always lands, precisely where he needs to be.”
Selection 2. I’m Getting Sentmental Over You ( Washington/ Bassman, 1932)
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Most of the “It” Club performance consists of Monk’s own compositions. Sentimental Over You is one of the few standards, but a very strong reading, and my personal favourite. The original lyrics would be familiar to the artists and influence their voicings. Karaoke the lyrics with the music to sense how the two work together.
Never thought I’d fall, but when I hear you call
I’m getting sentimental over you
Things you say and do just thrill me through and through
I’m getting sentimental over you
I thought I was happy I could live without love
Now I must admit, love is all I’m thinking of
Won’t you please be kind, and just make up your mind
That you’ll be sweet and gentle, be gentle with me
‘Cause I’m getting sentimental over you
Monk opens in straight lyrical rendition, the audience gently applauds in recognition of the song, then everything is fair game. The key change after the fourth line underscores the lyric’s sentiment, … “I thought I was happy…. I could live without love..but…” the change and the lyrics work together. Charlie Rouse driving tenor excels, Monk devils constantly, rewriting the melody, tormenting it. That the whole piece hangs together is a miracle. I’m not sure the drum and bass solo is essential, but that is how it worked live.
Selection 3. Teo (Monk)
. . .
A tribute to Teo Macero, Columbia’s jazz producer, which also appears on the 1964 Columbia title “Monk”. No relation to the Miles Davis “Teo” from 1961. Repetitive choppy theme, which opens up a blank canvas for Rouse, and then Monk swings hard and michevious, injecting life into the deceptively simple chord changes.
Larry Gales, bass; Ben Riley, drums; Charlie Rouse, tenor saxophone, Thelonious Monk, piano; recorded live in performance at The “It” Club, Los Angeles, CA. October 31 and November 1, 1964.
Monk’s recording history mostly divides into record labels: Blue Note (1947-52) , Prestige (1952-4), Riverside (1955-61) Columbia (1962-70), and Black Lion (1971+). It was during the Columbia years, in 1964, that Monk recorded two live sessions, Live at the It Club, and Live at the Jazz Workshop. Neither was released by Columbia at the time, only shortly after his death in 1982.
The “It” Club sessions were first issued in heavily edited form. Engineering credits (1982) Columbia house engineer Don Puluse. Eight of the eighteen tunes were omitted altogether Most of the included tunes were trimmed, some to less than half their length, though the main victim of edits appear to be the bass and drum solos, which may be no bad thing. Maybe those solos worked better live, but on hearing drum solos, I usually head for the bar.
These are the edited track timings: “Blue Monk” (7:30 from 11:18), “Well You Needn’t” (7.35 from 9:17), “Rhythm-a-ning” (6.55 from 10:09), “Blues Five Spot” (5.50 from 10:13), “Bemsha Swing” (5.30 from 8:34), “Straight No Chaser” (4.30 from 7:15), “Evidence” (5.45 from 8:37), “Nutty” (7.35 from 10:48) I’m Getting Sentimental Over You (5.40 from 12:28 ) Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-( 6.25 from 9:01 ).
The “It” Club sessions are a taste of Monk’s quartet in live performance at the peak of their game. Marvel at how Rouse, Riley and Gales manage Monk’s moment to moment unpredictability, as if the tunes weren’t difficult enough, maintaining a balanced structure. Whilst many of the tunes are from Monk’s familiar playbook, some, like the fiendishly complex Gallop’s Gallop have only one known other recording. I should add a disclaimer: just because something is complex and difficult to play does not mean it is enjoyable. Rather, that it is unpredictable, Whitney Balliet’s Sound Of Surprise, invites a different kind of enjoyment, at the heart of jazz improvisation.
Mosaic’s 4 LP set restores the edits and omissions of the previous Columbia double LP, offering the complete two day sessions in full, in the original order of performance, recreating the experience. My most treasured Mosaic In Person at The Blackhawk Friday and Saturday night does a similar thing, restoring the Mobley solos which are the main attraction of the session for me, solos which Miles decided to edit out.
Turn the lights down, go the whole distance, and experience it over two evenings. Now that’s what I call 1964.
Vinyl: MRLP-3001 x4 LP set
Unlike the “Complete” Series Mosaic box sets, some of which contain up to 12 CDs, Mosaic MRLP 3001 was the first of eight smaller “HQ Vinyl” boxsets, featuring just three or four LPs. The mastering engineer in 2009 is Kevin Gray, whose development over the last decade has been remarkable.
Mosaic’s Complete “It” Club was released on vinyl in 2009, limited to 5,000 numbered copies (this copy 0269). It is Out Of Print, and copies sell for $200-$300 on Discogs. The recording is good quality, though not outstanding, and the Mosaic is noted for its restoration work, required because Charlie Rouse occasionally wandered away from his microphone. It sounds mono to me, see the stereo left and right channel waveforms, identical. I guess the recording engineer had instruments miked individually, but mixed them all to the centre.
Nowadays, Mosaic seem to have gone completely over to the dark side, The Evil Silver Disk™, missing out on the audiophile vinyl revolution started by MM33 and the Tone Poets in the last couple of years. Not too late Mr Cuscuna! Audiophile Complete LP boxsets? Talk to Don.
One thing in common between the Complete Live At The “It” Club sessions, and the Canadian edition of Criss Cross: both have no Hackensack. But one is meant to.
To set the scene, the British Broadcasting Corporation welcomed Thelonious Monk to London, to record BBC-TV “Jazz 625” at The Marquee Club, on March 14, 1965 – just over five months after the “It” Club sessions. A close match, same line-up, same tunes, it’s as good as the “It” Club, which wasn’t filmed. The Marquee Club, London, mens dress-code 1965, V-neck cardigan, collar and tie; clean-shaven.
Two Monk compositions, Hackensack, and Rhythm-A-Ling, introduced by British trumpeter and broadcaster, Humphrey Lyttleton. A lot of perspiration under those lights.
Steve from Ontario, Canada, has a Canadian mono copy of CL 2038 Thelonious Monk – Criss Cross. It has an unusual problem: the first track on Side 1 is Rhythm-A-Ning, and so is the first track on Side 2.
Two Rhythm-A-Nings, no Hackensack. Columbia has form.
Steve shot me the labels, all-red Columbia two-eye with the early “GUARANTEED HIGH FIDELITY” text, and at the rim, “PRINTED IN CAN.”.This label was in use 1962-3, an “original”.
We know from the KoB study Columbia had the same distribution and manufacturing model for Canada as all its other plants. The original master tape mix would be used to cut multiple lacquers (acetates) simultaneously, for each side of the LP (“cuttings”). Each cutting was identified by its own letter code, added to the end of the matrix code (e.g. XLP # # # # # -1A,). One, or more often, two pairs of cuttings would be despatched to each Columbia plant, for local manufacture of metal parts (Customatrix Division) and vinyl pressing.
Normally collectors are interested in an early alphabetic code, in search of those early A – B – C cutting codes. Mistakenly as it happens, as Columbia’s distribution of cuttings in the ’60s did not follow a strict alphabetic sequence. Here, however, the point of interest is something else: the mix code. Usually there is only one mix, a -1# code. -2 # code is unusual, though not unknown. The Canadian pressing has -1 and -2 mix codes either side. Different mixes.The Canadian Columbia matrix codes : Side 1 XLP 59556 -1D, Side 2 XLP 59557-2B
The mix code is a clue as to what happened, and how it happened, but at this stage we don’t know what is “normal” for this title. What if all copies of Criss Cross have the same codes as Canada, or some other permutation of 1 and 2? The first step is to look at the US commercial release.
Discogs Criss Cross entry for the first mono release notes three variations in matrix stamps (there may be many others)
Variant 1: Side 1, stamped: XLP-59556-2A Side 2, stamped: XLP-59557-2G
Variant 2: Side 1, stamped: XLP-59556-2E Side 2, etched: XLP-59557-2K
Variant 3: Side 1, stamped: o XLP-59556-2F Side 2, stamped: o XLP-59557-2E
These three variants have the usual asymetrical permutation of cuttings for each side The pairing is typically offset, Side 1 from one lacquer pair, side two from another lacquer pair. (A/G, E/K and F/E). But all three have mix code -2# on both sides. Significant.
The second step was to find a copy of Criss Cross in its earliest form, a radio station promo. That was helpful in dating the Kind of Blue tracklisting error. Bingo!. A Criss Cross promo auction was found which contained a rarely offered picture, the Columbia matrix stamp. This US promo has the second mix on Side 1: XLP 59556 -2B
The promo strengthens suspicion that mix -1 was was the source of the missing Hackensack track. Alerted to the track sequence problem, Columbia must have gone back to the faulty master tape of Criss Cross, cut the duplicate Rythm-a-Ning from Side 1 and and spliced Hackensack in the correct sequence , creating mixtape -2. A fresh batch of acetates would have been cut and distributed to Columbia plants. Copies manufactured from faulty mix -1# must have been withdrawn, though perhaps not all.
The aforementioned radio station promo was merely a commercial release copy, stickered.”Not For Sale”. A second cross-reference is useful at this point, to make sure you are not down the wrong rabbit-hole . What we really want is sight of the matrix codes on the official white label pre-release promo. That is definitive. As luck would have it, I had a white label promo myself!
The white label promo matrix stamps are -2F and -2E (same as Discogs variant 3)
This kills several birds with one stone – an aphorism, a literary device, not an incitement to stone birds. It reaffirms the arbitrary selection of cuttings by pressing plants, not the chronological -1A -1B -1C which sets collector’s hearts a flutter. In this case E and F were the earliest in use, to press the promo, and the subsequent commercial release. It has a T stamp, which likely points to Terre Haute and source of promos. More importantly, it confirms the commercial release of Criss Cross should have the second mix on both sides.
One could be forgiven in thinking the Canadian plant jumped the gun, and ran with the mix 1 lacquers they were initially sent. But Steve’s faulty Canadian pressing has a -2# matrix on Side 2. So we know Canada was sent a replacement second mix lacquer, we know that they received it and they used it . It looks like Canada replaced Side 2 cutting with mix -2 , which was not actually faulty, but failed to replace the cutting of Side 1 mix -1 which was faulty. They then went ahead with pressing. Hence Canada got two Rhythm-a-Nings and no Hackensack.
It is worth remembering this was the start of the 1960s. The Industrial maxim of making things right first time was in its infancy..Car owners knew never to buy the first model of a new automobile. Rather than check every item, car manufacturers decided it was cheaper to have the customer do the quality control. Manufacturers let the customer find the faults, while they scrutinised the warranty claims. Worked… most of the time.. My thanks to Steve from Canada, for this interesting case.
The Consulting Vinyl Detective, interesting jazz mysteries solved while you wait. Apply on-line, all cases considered, not all cases accepted.
What is your take on Mosaic boxsets? Do they work for you? Any recommendations? Floor is yours, use it to share the knowledge.
UPDATE February 6, 2021: Harry M has the photos. Monk and Rouse, Jazz Expo 1969