March 4, 2024

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Monk in Berlin, 1969: Video

Forty-eight years ago this month, pianist Thelonious Monk appeared in Berlin at the Berliner Jazztage festival. Translated, the event’s name meant Berlin Jazz Days, which today is known as JazzFest Berlin.

On solo piano, during the first week of November 1969, Monk played four Duke Ellington songs—Satin Doll, Sophisticated Lady, Caravan and Solitude followed by his Crepuscule With Nellie. Then on Blues for Duke, Monk was joined by Joe Turner on piano, Hans Rettenbacher on bass and Stu Martin on drums. Interestingly, Turner recorded for MPS soon after this concert.

Fortunately, the concert was taped by German television. Camera close-ups give you an intimate look at Monk and his unusual keyboard fingering and attack. If you’re unfamiliar with Monk or not a fan, you will be after you watch him on this video. Monk was a fascinating figure who created art on his own terms. Seeing Monk in action is often the best way to be introduced to him and to appreciate his art.

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