A newly discovered 1968 live performance recording of legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk is set to release next month.
Fans can listen to the 47-minute-long Thelonious Monk set, entitled Palo Alto, on CD, vinyl, and digital platforms beginning on Friday, July 31st. The work’s first single, a rendition of 1941’s “Epistrophy,” is available presently.
The story of how the 52-year-old concert came to fruition is interesting to say the least. During the fall of 1968, 16-year-old Palo Alto, California, resident Danny Scher resolved to hire Thelonious Monk to play a benefit gig at his high school. Capitalizing upon his knowledge of jazz in a series of phone calls and posters, Scher managed to turn his dream into reality.
In exchange for $500 (almost $3,700 in 2020 currency), Monk’s quartet performed at the school on Sunday, October 27th, 1968. Following some unexpected obstacles – including Scher’s brother needing to pick up the quartet in San Francisco and attendees doubting that the renowned Monk would in fact play – the sold-out show was an unqualified success.
Had the jazz pianist and his three touring bandmembers not needed to return to San Francisco for another performance that evening, the Palo Alto recording may be even longer.
Plus, Monk was arguably at the height of his stardom at the time of the concert, having truly risen to prominence on the heels of his first Columbia Records release, Monk’s Dream, in 1963. At that point, the eventual Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient was 46 years old.
Speaking of his experience watching Thelonious Monk captivate fans at the unusual gig, Danny Scher said: “There was nothing odd. I loved Monk, I loved his music, and I loved producing. It was great seeing Monk dancing around the stage and then coming back to the piano when it was the right time. There was zero drama.”
Monk largely stepped away from the music scene in the 1970s, and his family established the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz in 1986, four years after his passing.