A creme-de-la-creme cast of jazz stars pays tribute to Thelonious Monk. This was an inaugural event of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, now (a bit disappointingly) renamed the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz. The concert took place on October 6, 1986 at D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. (Local newspaper previews and reviews confirm this date. The December 2, 1986 date displayed prominently on the video is puzzling, since, as best as I can determine, it was broadcast on PBS in early March of 1987.)
True, it’s a bit Marsalis-heavy, as much of higher-profile jazz was at the time, but at least it’s not the later Marsalis-run kind of thing. Some of the players are a bit past their prime, but others, such as Roy Haynes (a mere 61 at the time) are full of energy.
One particular highlight is the rendition of “‘Round Midnight” performed by Gerry Mulligan with the Billy Taylor trio. It could easily stand as definitive (as could a number of other recorded versions). Another is “Listen to Monk” (aka “Rhythm-a-ning”) where Jon Hendricks (age 64) shows how far ahead of nearly all self-styled scat singers he was. Instead of relaxing in his comfort zone, he prods the other players and reacts to them, then develops melodic lines motivically in the way that instrumentalists do.
Taylor is one DC native who participated in the concert. Saxophonist Marshall Keys is another. Unfortunately cut from the broadcast were Washington guitarist Bill Harris as well as the Howard University Jazz Ensemble (they didn’t even get to play their whole planned program at the concert before they were shooed off the stage).
Urszula Dudziak doing “Well, You Needn’t” is a curiosity, perhaps intended to show global impact, to attract a certain demographic of donor, or to give white women some artistic representation, but unfortunately it’s too much of the same technology gimmick. I would rather have heard the Howard band.