The release of the Thelonious Monk Palo Alto album, never out before, is one of the few big pleasures recently in the grim year for jazz that is 2020. Listen to the sound of applause for one on the record: That's a tonic. Recorded in 1968 in a Californian high school it is not the hugely abundant quantity that appeals because after all there are only six tracks and the album clocks in at well under an hour, with 'Well You Needn't' and 'Blue Monk' the longest tracks: the rest much shorter.
More it is the storybook quality of the release because remarkably the album came about after an enterprising teenager at a California school decided to invite and persuade Monk to play and the gig was recorded by the school janitor, the tapes in storage ever since.
The pianist is heard with tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley and the overall performance has a zest and zing to it and the sound quality is better than serviceable, you get almost a tactile sense of the music-making at play.
The music of Monk 38 years after his death is still a hugely significant factor in contemporary jazz. It's hard to imagine his music as not part of the repertoire. Hearing this decades-old recording for the first time today and imagining him playing that unlikely day in that unlikely place is somehow deeply stirring and highly recommendable.
Out now via Impulse/Legacy.