San Francisco and Hackensack, New Jersey, are two locations immortalized by the late jazz pianist/composer/innovator Thelonious Monk. Palo Alto could have joined that elite list with the release of Monk’s live “Palo Alto” album, which was originally supposed to come out Friday, July 31, on Impulse! Records. Unfortunately for jazz fans, a dispute between Monk’s previous label and his estate has left the release indefinitely delayed as of this week.
The source of the recording is a concert produced by Palo Alto native Danny Scher back in 1968. The music, performed by the working quartet of Monk, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, double bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley, is magical.
“They were on the road for years, and they were just a great band,” said Zev Feldman, a co-producer of the album.
The backstory for both the live event — and the subsequent album — is both charming and inspirational.
Now a music industry veteran of renown, at the time of the Monk concert, Scher was 16 and an ambitious Palo Alto High School student who had already presented performances at his school by pianist/composer Vince Guaraldi (“Linus & Lucy”) and vocalist Jon Hendricks (ex-Lambert, Hendricks & Ross) as well as vibraphonist/bandleader Cal Tjader.
Scher already had two de facto mentors at the time: the late Herb Wong, jazz scholar/educator/producer and a longtime Menlo Park resident, and Darlene Chan, founder and inaugural director of the Berkeley Jazz Festival.
“And I said to one of them, ‘You know, my two idols are Monk and