In 1959, Thelonious Monk recorded selections from his songbook for the soundtrack to French director Roger Vadim’s film Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The lost tapes were never released until now.
There have been many exceptional eras in jazz history—we’re in one now, in fact—but no one year reverberated like 1959. Miles Davis recorded Kind of Blue, John Coltrane made Giant Steps, Charles Mingus released Mingus Ah Um, and Ornette Coleman barnstormed into New York and unleashed The Shape of Jazz to Come.
Thelonious Monk, as Rushmore-worthy as those others, put out no less than three albums, all in a variety of settings: the large ensemble At Town Hall; 5 by Monk by 5 with his quintet; and the solo Thelonious Alone in San Francisco. If these were not as monumental as the aforementioned—or as brilliant as his own Brilliant Corners from 1957—then they showcased his vast breadth as a truly original pianist, bandleader, and above all, as a writer. His many virtues are underscored again with the unveiling of yet another recording he made that year: the soundtrack for Roger Vadim’s film Les Liaisons Dangereuses, itself an adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 18th century novel. Improbably lost to the world, the recordings were never released on their own until now, on the centennial of Monk’s birth. If 1959 was a summit in jazz, it may also have marked, on balance, Monk’s annus mirabilis.
Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960—a limited-edition double-LP and 2xCD set—was produced by Zev Feldman, François Le Xuan, and Frederic Thomas for the independent Sam Records and Saga labels with full permission from Monk’s estate. It’s bolstered by notes from scholars including Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, as well as photographs from the session, which took place down the block from Carnegie Hall at Nola Penthouse Studio on 111 West 57th Street. (Monk being Monk, he wore a conical hat during the date.)
A2 Crepuscule With Nellie
A3 Six In One
A4 Well, You Needn't
B1 Pannonica (Solo)
B2 Pannonica (Solo)
B3 Pannonica (Quartet)
B4 Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are
B5 Light Blue
B6 By And By (We'll Understand It Better By And By)