Sam Records Releases Thelonious Monk's "Les liaisons dangereuses 1960" For RSD 2017

Music composed for films is by definition precisely timed and intended to mirror or at least complement the on screen action. Of course that’s not always how its accomplished, especially when the hired musicians are not trained film composers.

Director Roger Vadim and French jazz promoter Marcel Romano, who had previously helped arrange the Miles Davis sessions for Louis Malle’s “Ascenseur pour l'échafaud” were both fans of the mercurial Thelonious Monk, whose star at the time (1958) was burning brightly.

Romano, who had befriended Monk in Paris a few years earlier, convinced him to come to Paris to compose and record new music for Vadim’s upcoming film “Les Liasons Dangereuses”.

But in October of 1958 Monk was arrested on what appeared to be bogus “drug” charges and he was unable to travel. Instead, Romano booked time on July 27th, 1959 at Nola Penthouse Studio, flying to New York with the then twenty-two year old French tenor saxophonist Barney Wilen, who he was managing at the time.

At the end of June Romano brought a copy of the script marked with precise timings for each scene requiring music (back then the composer worked with a click track using grease-pencil marked film to indicate musical entries and exits) as well as a rough cut of the flim with director Vadim adding music from his record collection.

The deadline for music delivery was ‘before July 31st”. Monk finally saw the film July 24th. It was not until the early morning hours of the July 26th that Monk, prodded by his friend and patron Nica de Koenigswarter (Nica, short for Pannonica), signed the nine page contract.

Recording began the next night at Nola’s with “regulars” Charlie Rouse, Sam Jones and Art Taylor, with Barney Wilen replacing Hank Mobley at Art Blakey’s request. Of course Monk didn’t have time to compose new music for the film, nor did he pay much attention to the timings outlined in the script. Instead he played six of his tunes, familiar to all Monk fans, plus a gospel tune.

The tunes are “Rhythm-a-Ning”, “Crepuscule with Nellie”, “Pannonica” (two solo versions and one with the group), “Six in One” (a previously untitled blues improv), “Well ,You Needn’t” , “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are”, “Light Blue” and “By and By” (“We’ll Understand It Better By and By” by Charles Albert Tindley, whose song “I’ll Overcome Someday” some years later became the Civil Rights movement’s anthem known as “We Shall Overcome”).

Those familiar with these Monk compositions will notice that Monk's takes on them are different: at the same time lower key and yet somehow more frenetic. He did see the movie and understood where the music would be used and that it was background. These definitely represent a different approach to the well-known tunes. It's not as if he gave "the usual" without regard to context.

There were a total of 37 attempted takes, recorded rehearsals and false starts, all well documented in the logs and in the 48 page full sized booklet that includes great session photos and the kind of annotation and production values we’ve come to expect from both Fred Thomas of Sam Records and co-producer Zev Feldman. I was unfamiliar with Saga’s Francois Le Xuan, who was responsible for the tape transfers and mastering and who’s label will release the CD version of this set.

How the tapes remained undiscovered for decades until very recently within Marcel Romano’s archives and the entire chain of events that led up to the recording and decades later this release are contained in the booklet, which Monk fans will devour with gusto (at least this one did).

The music is divided between two records, one containing the music used in the film, the other containing outtakes as well as a 14 minute opus called “Light Blue (making of), wherein you are witness to the “birth” of the Art Taylor’s drum part. There’s also a publishing drama that involved additional music created by “Jack Murray” (A/K/A Duke Jordan) and performed by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers with Barney Wilen that was the only music released as the film’s soundtrack on the French Fontana label.

Thelonious Monk’s music for the film has never been released. Until now. What a great story and great musical find! And of course with the music recorded at Nola Penthouse Sound Studios, even the sound is good!

For Monk newby’s there are, of course better places to start, but this limited edition Record Store Day release is, for Monk fans a “must have”! Superb boxed set packaging, first-rate annotation and very good sound add up to a great package.

J. Carter's picture

$60 for a two record set is a pretty expensive set no matter how well done it was. I love Monk but with so many great releases coming out that day it will be hard to justify adding this to my list of albums to buy that day.

audioholic63's picture

If this isn't blowing your skirt up high enough to pull the trigger but you want some Monk in that same price point that is Soooo worth the trip...I highly recommend the Impex 2 disc reissue of "Straight No Chaser". It is a revelation on all counts and well worth the $55 plus whatever shipping it takes to get to your door.

J. Carter's picture

I have several versions of Straight No Chaser that I am happy with already that were cheaper than that. I don't have that option with this release unfortunately.

audiof001's picture

This was the one release I wanted but the store in Hoboken didn't receive the copies they ordered. After seeing the $63 price (and a $140 gauger on eBay), I likely would have passed anyway. I never buy the overpriced Dave Mathews LP sets or other releases with inflated prices that appear to be released solely to take advantage of those those supporting RSD. I found 3 LP's for 1/2 price from previous RSD's and bought the Shirley Horn single. Good enough for me. As a friend said, this Monk will get released in some form after RSD anyway.

avi242's picture

try the "Ernest Ansermet The Royal Ballet Gala Performances" (AP - LDS6065) - 75$
That's expensive!

J. Carter's picture

That isn't an RSD title that I have to dish out money for on RSD though. Also that is on an audiophile label this isn't. I have less of an issue with price if it is on an audiophile label.

Michael Fremer's picture
Originals go for $800 and up! Doing that title correctly was expensive!
avi242's picture

Dear Mr Fremer,
I usually don't comment here so often,
but i frequently visit your website, and read your review on that lps. you said it yourself as i suspected. the metal parts were already done by BG years ago for classic.
so if you refer to the cover and small booklet inside... fine. But in the beatles mono project, you get more for less...

vince325's picture

Just picked up Royal Ballet at a Goodwill a few weeks ago. I checked prices when I got home and almost fainted when I saw the value. Fortunate or Unfortunately it's only mono but still worth a pretty penny. Oh and on the Sam lp's I have several and they should be considered audiophile by any standard.

avi242's picture

Imho Sam is an audiophile label. it has won high grades on it's reissues @ several audio magazines, including this web site. however regarding RSD prices... you might be right and I'm not gonna argue about that.

punkzter's picture

I would agree. I guess it could be subjective. But the quality of the releases and the pressings that I have received from Sam are extremely high. I have never had an issue with any of their releases.

J. Carter's picture

I was about 10 seconds too late from picking up a copy of this and everyone seems to be sold out. They are going for over $150 on eBay now. I hope they release these recordings in some other configuration like a high res download, standard vinyl or even CD.

nobonemovies's picture

Got the Monk and 11 other titles for 20% off as the book/record store was having a weekend discount - lucky me. Usually don't bother with RSD due to large lines but this out of the way location was very low key and the patrons orderly.

hockeyyo's picture

As a loyal customer of Sam Records, I'm very disappointed that I was unable to get a copy of this record at RSD. I see one seller in the Netherlands has 21 copies for sale on Discogs for $75 US + shipping.

J. Carter's picture

It looks like some stores are getting replenished. A store I do business with got some in this weekend and I was able to score a copy. Good luck.

jpvisual's picture


Any chance you can review the Black Sabbath Reissues from Abbey Road Sudios pressed @ QRP?

There seems to be a lot of debate about these "DBL LP deluxe editions". It looks like they're not AAA, but how do they sound?

I'm sure many of us would love a review on these.


jpvisual's picture


Any chance you can review the Black Sabbath Reissues from Abbey Road Studios pressed @ QRP?

There seems to be a lot of debate about these "DBL LP deluxe editions". It looks like they're not AAA, but how do they sound?

I'm sure many of us would love a review on these.


dailylexusvn's picture

I hope they release these recordings in some other configuration like a high res download, standard vinyl or even CD.

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