Thelonious Monk: Complete Live At The “It” Club (1964) Mosaic

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)

.  .  .

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.

Artists

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.

Music

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.

Mastering engineer  Kevin Gray at AcousTec. I guess that could be his initials in the runout., looks like K M @ AT – Kevin Mastered at AcousTec?

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.

Mosaic Insert

Ignominious end to the “It” Club: Exotic Review -1970s, scantily-clad dancers, floor show, The “Tit Club” (darn spellchecker) finally closed its doors in 1977.

Collector’s Corner: Vinyl Detective Special

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”.

cANADIAN-cRISS-cROSS-MONO-LABELS 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.CL2038-Matrix-Side1-Side-2-CLOSEUPThe 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

thelonious-monk-criss-cross-Guaranteed-High--Side-1-Fidelity-matrix-mix-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 . Rabbit-warrenWhat 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)

Thelonious-Monk_Criss-Cross-CL-2038-mono-promo-two-eye-2000px-LJCThis 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.

Bummer.

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..Fresno-accidents-18 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

 

Photo Credits: Harry M

17 thoughts on “Thelonious Monk: Complete Live At The “It” Club (1964) Mosaic

  1. I was fortunate to live one town over from Mosaic’s “headquarters” in Stamford, Ct in the early 90’s when I first discovered them. I put headquarters in quotes because upon visiting them, it was really just a small mom & pop style operation. My friend and I would stop in mostly to view and then purchase their many fine prints of classic jazz photographs. We met both Charlie Lourie and Michael Cuscuna on our visits and found them both to be friendly, super accommodating and legitimately excited by our enthusiasm considering our young age. I went on to purchase a handful of their exhaustive box sets on vinyl and was thoroughly impressed by the detailed research that went into the booklets and of course the musical choices they made, all this at a time jazz vinyl was very difficult to find in any form. Favorites from my collection would be their first release, The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Thelonius Monk and the Miles Complete Plugged Nickel recordings
    Skip ahead some thirty years when I found myself working at a Stamford restaurant with Michael Cuscuna’s son. By this time I had built quite a vinyl collection thanks to its resurgence and was also much more familiar with the impressive career of Cuscuna. His son was amazed I even knew who his dad was! Being an in-the-know kind of guy, I had to ask Max(son) if he could ask his dad if the recently released set of The Complete Novus & Columbia recordings of Henry Threadgill & Air was still available. If so I wanted to purchase, especially since I had developed a friendship with Threadgill after going to every show of his I could for thirty years.
    Well imagine my surprise when showed up at work shortly thereafter with box in hand(cd’s I’m afraid since Mosaic vinyl was a thing of the past). I asked what I owed him and Max said no charge, his dad was happy to gift it to such a huge fan. To top it off, his dad wanted to sign the booklet for me as he was the original producer of these recordings. How thoughtful and generous! Not much more than a year later I was able to go see Threadgill in one of his increasingly rare NY visits. Of course I brought the box with me and Thread was all too happy to sign as well. He had great respect and shared many fine stories about Cuscuna. This experience solidified the importance of Mosaic Records in my jazz/record collection evolution and the box set holds a special place in my collection

  2. Oh Gosh, a treasure source I had no inkling thereof until now.
    As a teenager in the very provincial Christchurch, New Zealand,

  3. Just a little info – as LJC points out Mosaic is only producing CD sets at the moment.
    I had emailed Michael Cuscuna a number of years ago suggesting a vinyl box of the complete Blue Note Wayne Shorter and that’s when he explained the lay of the land – Blue Note themselves stopped giving them any license to produce any more vinyl sets.
    No doubt, because they wanted to start the Tone Poet series.

  4. That dead wax inscription is KPG @ ATM, meaning Kevin P. Gray at AcousTech Mastering. Nowadays, his inscription is KPG @CA, for Cohearent Audio, where he’s been since 2010.

  5. I have lots of Mosaic sets, CD and vinyl. I loved getting their print catalogs, to see what was new. It was my intro to Freddie Redd, Tina Brooks, Chet Baker and others. OK, maybe they aren’t the greatest of audiophile pressings compared to what Tone Poet is accomplishing now, but at the time, they were the top of the mark for me. I love them still. And the booklets/photos and info? I learned a lot reading those. Thanks to Cuscuna and whoever else was involved.

    • I have nine Mosaic boxes (CD version). They are all top notch regarding audio quality. Most of them sound better than the LP albums I own of the same music (no first pressings, just for the record).

  6. I just played my Monk at the IT Club on Columbia recently. It has always been a favorite in my expansive Thelonious Monk collection. I also purchased the Mosaic collection awhile back, complete with booklet. I’ve only played it a few times, none recently. The Columbia 2 LP set usually good enough for me, but with the full version on Mosaic , I’ll have to give it a spin. I have #1541. Thelonious Monk is one of my favorite jazz artists.

  7. Where would the collector market be without Mosaic ? They set a high standard for reissues. Their sets became a documentary of sorts for the artist in question. Period photographs, extensive background information, complete session notes and so on. They deserved the awards and accolades. Heck Cuscuna is a living legend for what he accomplished. I have picked up a few sets over the years. My only criticism is sonic. Most Mosaic reissues sound a bit sterile and reserved to my ears compared to first pressings. But when one could have all of an artists output in one box, compared to the necessity of multiple 3-4 $ figure purchases of individual LPs, who am I to quibble ?

  8. Mosaic box sets… So much to say…

    First, I’m one of the beneficiaries of Rudolf’s decision to offload his sets because I’m now the happy owner of his Miles Davis Blackhawk set.

    Second, Mosaic will always have a special place in my heart. When I started serious jazz vinyl collecting back in the late 1980s, the world was a very different place: no eBay, no Discogs and, if you didn’t live in one of the big cities, record shops hardly ever had much jazz. I had to rely on sporadic visits to London and the Mole Jazz postal auctions for my fixes. So the existence of Mosaic and their extraordinary box sets was a godsend. I have fond memories of being on the mailing list and receiving the postal newsletters. I’d eagerly rip open then envelopes to discover what was new. I wish now that I’d kept all those newsletters: they’d be such a great nostalgia trip.

    The first set I remember buying was the Tina Brooks. I still have the invoice tucked in the box and it remains one of my favourites. Other faves include the Lee Morgan 1950s set, the Hank Mobley 50s set and the Freddie Redd set. There are still a few OOP sets that I’d like to add to the collection. Just lovely!

  9. Mosaic Box Sets:
    Thank you LJC for this lovely blog. I was a very early collector, starting in the mid-1980s. The early years 1983 – 1997 (or thereabout) were very interesting for the collector. We interacted with human beings. Online shopping was still in the future.

    The black and white Mosaic booklet would arrive by snail mail, with an order form stapled in the centre. Whereas I had the option of enclosing a personal cheque or money order and mailing my order form to Stamford, Connecticut, I would call Mosaic with full confidence that a polite natural person would put me through to Charlie Laurie or Michael Cuscuna. These two gentlemen would answer one’s queries about the records without giving one a sense of being rushed.

    The service was always first class. When one of the dispatch staff mistakenly sent me the CD version of the Woody Shaw set, I called and spoke with Mr. Cuscuna and indicated I would send it back. “Sorry about that. Consider it a gift from us and keep it,” he said. The vinyl set arrived within a few days.

    The prices were very attractive. The original LPs (MR) cost $9 each. The “audiophile” Q-LPs that were offered in the early-mid nineties cost $13 each. The enclosed multi-page booklets and photos were worth that a lot more than that price.

    I have 50 Mosaic vinyl sets + duplicate mint copies of a few of my favourites. It was, and still is, a great pleasure to listen to the complete music in the order in which it was recorded, including alternate takes. It was through Mosaic Records that I first heard the music of people like Tina Brooks, Freddie Redd and Herbie Nichols. On the weekend after a set came in, I would have a marathon listening session till I had gone through a major portion of the box.

    However, I was easily defeated by two sets which, to this day I have never listened to even up to the half-way point. The two are The Complete Commodore Jazz Recordings Vol I, II & III, a total of 66 LPs, and The Complete Capitol Recordings of The Nat King Trio, a total of 27 LPs.

    My subjective top five Mosaic sets are The Complete:

    Blackhawk Sessions (Miles Davis)
    Plugged Nickel Sessions (Miles Davis)
    CBS Buck Clayton Jam Sessions
    Blue Note And Pacific Jazz Recordings of Clifford brown
    Blue Note Recordings of Herbie Nichols

    One can’t overstate the role of Mosaic Records in presenting great music in a high-quality manner at a time when classic Jazz and the vinyl format were endangered species. To me the top tier ground-breaking reissue teams of the last 40 years have been Mosaic Records, Classic Records and Music Matters Jazz.

    I chuckle at the memory of Mosaic Records producers’ letters in the early brochures that assured us that Mosaic Records would never abandon the vinyl format. This remained their commitment even as the CD took over the display spaces in record stores. I recall my transient sense of disappointment when Mosaic finally surrendered to the changing times and tastes. All was forgiven when Classic Records, Music Matters Jazz and Analogue Productions picked up the baton. The vinylphile is spoiled for riches. But my Mosaic Boxes remain treasures alongside the awesome Music Matters Jazz reissues.

  10. Channel 4, I think you mean BBC2, as for Mosaic things like Grant Green and Sonny Clark or the Tina Brooks were wonderful at the time, Blue Note and Tone Poet are only now catching up with some of those Blue Note sessions thirty years later. The one downside was I couldn’t really afford them in the late eighties, plus they were special orders down here, wandering into the basement of the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street back in ’89/’90 was a revelation, they carried them all. These days I’ll pick any up that I see, but I think I have the ones I really want, as an aside Mosaic were a really nice company to do business with, a very good mail order set up some years back when I used them.

    • Just to add that my local library had some Mosaic vinyl sets, but when they sold all of their records off they were nowhere to be seen, funny that.

    • Correction: BBC FOUR (seen in top left corner of screengrab) uploaded the YouTube, however they were founded in only 2002, so in 1965 it could only have been BBC or BBC2, likely BBC2, and definitely not Channel 4 which is apparently UK’s second commercial channel. I had to look it up. Apologies, as I don’t watch any broadcast television, I wasn’t clued up on the differences. The only button on my remote that gets any use nowadays is Netflix.

  11. Mosaic box sets: my (very personal) view.
    They were advertised as ”for those who want it all “. But one should ask oneself the question whether one really wants it all. Because, in practice, one rarely plays more than the first album on top of the box. The ones on the bottom remain in general unplayed.
    For years, starting in the eighties, I bought them immediately after they were issued and I must say that their marketing was efficient. They created a need which, in fact, was not there. So in the end I decided to ditch them all. I got rid of them and realised some very good sales. The Jimmy Giuffre box sold for over $ 1100. A good ROI, but from a collector’s point of view an operation without interest. The only Mosaic which remains in my collection is the single LP album of the Monk Quartet with Coltrane.
    But again, my view is very personal and I can imagine an approach of collecting only Mosaics and no “normal” LP albums. Why not?

    • totally agree with my friend Rudolf: an “old time” collector usually has got originals and seldom is interested in addenda. I’ve got a few and they all suffer from poor packaging: spines get ruined quite quickly and while records remain as new, boxes worn out. records stay new because, after a first listening, I never go back.

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