Jazz Concepts: High School Jazz
In 1968, a student at Palo Alto High School near San Francisco had the idea to present a jazz concert. Danny Scher was in charge of organizing school dances, but he was a huge jazz fan. To Danny, it seemed like a reasonable idea to try hiring the Thelonious Monk Quartet, one of the top acts in the heady era of ’60s jazz. Although the odds were against him, 16-year-old Scher made an agreement with Monk, put up flyers, sold tickets, produced the event, and — fortunately for the music world — let the school custodian record the concert. The recording is now available for all to hear [Thelonious Monk, Palo Alto, 2020, Impulse].
Whenever new recordings from the masters of the classic jazz era come to light, it’s cause for celebration. Monk’s legacy extends from the bebop era of the ’40s through the late ’60s, and this live recording from Palo Alto High School captures Monk toward the end of his career. Despite being a jazz legend, Monk was no longer considered cutting-edge at the time; he was a holdover from the bebop era. But bassist Larry Gales, 32 years old at the time, was at the top of his game. Along with drummer Ben Riley, they formed one of Monk’s most adventurous rhythm sections. The musicians seemed to dig the high school environment at Palo Alto. The band was on fire — everyone was stretching out and playing as if they knew this might be one of their last gigs together.