Jazz has had its share of great archival discoveries, not the least of which were Dean Benedetti's recordings of Charlie Parker. But the 2005 discovery of more music from the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane is made all the more extraordinary because so few knew it existed and the only official recordings by this band were made in its first weeks of existence.
The forgotten November 1957 Carnegie Hall concert taped by Voice Of America radio was discovered by the Library of Congress with two appearances by the quartet. These two 25-minute, five-tune sets feature the quartet in great fidelity and unbelievable form. The empathy and invention of the group here far surpasses the Riverside session, made months earlier. Playing together every night for 18 weeks sharpened the skills and interaction of these brilliant musicians. Monk's piano playing has never sound like this; his arpeggios are virtuosic, and each note rings with clarity.
And Coltrane had fully mastered Monk's music by this time. In the confines of short playing times (most tunes are 4 to 6 minutes in duration), he plays with a fervid intensity, trying to cram all his ideas into a brief stretch. Ahmed Abdul-Malik and Shadow Wilson play the intricate arrangements with fluidity, and push the soloists to great heights. Thanks to the clarity and presence of Wilson's drums on this recording, his work will be a revelation to anyone previously unfamiliar with his name.