Image: Impulse Records.

 

(Impulse Records). In the fall of 1968, a sixteen-year old high school student named Danny Scher had a dream to invite legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and his all-star quartet to perform a concert at his local high school in Palo Alto, CA.

In a series of twists and turns, against a backdrop of racial tension and political volatility, that concert happened and was recorded by the school’s janitor. Palo Alto was  released on July 31st.

“That performance is the one of the best live recordings I’ve ever heard by Thelonious,” says T.S. Monk, son of the pianist/composer maestro, drummer and founder of the Thelonious Monk Institute. “I wasn’t even aware of my dad playing a high school gig, but he and the band were on it. When I first heard the tape, from the first measure, I knew my father was feeling really good.”

The vibrant 47-minute album spotlights Monk’s steady touring band (tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales, drummer Ben Riley) and features his touring repertoire, which were his finest compositions.

1968 was a tumultuous year in America, marked by the shocking assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, unsettling revelations about the Vietnam War, and protests and unrest throughout the country.

Palo Alto and the primarily African-American neighboring town of East Palo Alto were no different.

This was the stage for young high school student Danny Scher, a jazzhead with an idealistic bent and knack for concert promotion.

Scher says, “I always looked at music as a way to put issues on hold or up to a mirror, whether they be political or social. On October 27, 1968, there was a truce between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. And that is what music does.”

“That performance is the one of the best live recordings I’ve ever heard by Thelonious,” says T.S. Monk, son of the pianist/composer maestro, drummer and founder of the Thelonious Monk Institute.

“I wasn’t even aware of my dad playing a high school gig, but he and the band were on it. When I first heard the tape, from the first measure, I knew my father was feeling really good.”

On October 27, 1968Thelonious Monk and his quartet climbed out of the Scher  family van, walking past a rainy parking lot full of surprised Palo Alto and East Palo Alto residents, into Palo Alto High School’s auditorium and delivered a stellar, energetic and historic 47-minute set.

The concert was quite impressively recorded by Palo Alto High School’s janitor, and the tape sat in the attic of Scher’s family home for years.  Now over 50 years later, that recording is available to the public for the first time.

The vibrant 47-minute album spotlights Monk’s steady touring band  and features his finest compositions.