Rolling Stone - No. 985, p.764 out of 5 stars
- "...What makes this set such a godsend, nearly fifty years later, is that we hear this brief legendary partnership at its best in a concert-hall setting, in stunning-for-its-day fidelity...."
Down Beat - p.655 stars out of 5
- "Coltrane takes the good bait, reeling off wave after wave of his harmonically stupendous lines, pushing himself harder than in any other contemporaneous situation."
Personnel: Thelonious Monk (piano); John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass instrument); Shadow Wilson (drums).
Liner Note Authors: Larry Appelbaum; Robin D.G. Kelley; Ira Gitler; Lewis Porter; Amiri Baraka; Stanley Crouch; Ashley Kahn.
Recording information: Carnegie Hall, New York, NY (11/29/1957).
On paper it seems as if such titanic and distinctive musical personalities as Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane might not mix very well, but this stellar set, recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 1957, plays almost like a blissful extended duet between the two (with support from a sensitive yet hard-swinging bassist and drummer). The opener, "Monk's Mood," for example, features the composer/pianist's typically brilliant, idiosyncratic playing, while Coltrane floats over the top in the most lyrical of modes. Monk, in particular, is a master of tension-and-release tunefulness, creating rhythmic and harmonic intricacies that seem to spur Coltrane's saxophone exploration to new heights.
The quartet shines on ballads ("Sweet and Lovely"), but the leaders display their best chemistry on the Monk's thorny, uptempo bop numbers. "Evidence" and "Epistrophy," for instance," have Monk adding rhythmic, dissonant punctuation to Coltrane's torrential stream of ideas, creating a thrilling push-pull balance. A superb date, and a must for fans of both artists, AT CARNEGIE HALL captures two of jazz's most important figures working in perfect symbiosis.