On 29April 1960 Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers took to the stage for a sell out show at London’s Festival Hall on the south bank of the Thames. This was Monk’s first appearance in the UK. With top ticket prices at £1 it seems remarkably inexpensive, but the average weekly wage back then was under £19 per week.
According to The Guardian newspaper, “Monk’s appearance on the stage maintained his reputation for eccentricity, a soft cap perched on his head, a tweed suit that appeared to have travelled from New York the hard way, and brogues that had that Brand X look. At intervals he meandered slightly loopily around the stage while his bassist, John Orr, pounded away at chordal progressions on another planet”
“But all this was small beer for those who cannot take anything stronger. The fact is that once Monk had got to work at the keyboard he revealed himself as still a profound creative talent. He does not take his jazz the easy way. Each note is apparently considered, weighed, analysed and then reluctantly committed to the audience. It does not make for easy listening, but why should it?”
The Jazz Messengers at this time were, Lee Morgan (trumpet) Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone) Bobby Timmons (piano) Jymie Merritt (bass) and of course Art Blakey (drums).
We cannot find any Monk in London from 1960 but this was on the BBC in 1965