Recording information: Studio G, Tokyo Broadcasting System TV, Tokyo, Japan (05/23/1963).
The audio portion of a television show Thelonious Monk recorded in Tokyo during his 1963 tour of Japan, The Classic Quartet features Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, Butch Warren on bass, and Frankie Dunlop on drums delivering a fairly standard Monk set of the day. It opens with the familiar "Epistrophy," followed by a rare live version of "Bolivar Blues," the newly arranged "Evidence" (based on the chord structure of "Just You, Just Me"), a heartbreakingly lovely solo piano take on "Just a Gigolo," and ending with an extended and bluesy version of "Blue Monk." The sound is very good, with the drums and bass up more in the mix than usual, which gives the set a little extra punch, and Rouse -- perhaps Monk's most sympathetic musical collaborator -- is in typically good form on tenor sax. The highlight is Monk's solo spot on "Just a Gigolo," where his angular, dissonant piano lines restructure and reassemble the melody into a halting, delicate, and poignant mini-masterpiece, demonstrating Monk's uncanny ability to adapt standards into his own eccentric space. The Classic Quartet makes a nice addition to the Monk discography. ~ Steve Leggett