October 10 marks ninety-nine years since the birth of Thelonious Monk, and what better way to commemorate that event than with the first recording of his famous “‘Round Midnight”, performed by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra. (Please do not confuse that photograph of Cootie Williams on the left of the page with Monk, it is not.) I will admit that while I usually tend to prefer earlier music, this is one of my favorite records.
Thelonious Sphere Monk was born on October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. From 1922, the Monks lived in New York City, where Thelonious was exposed to jazz music. He taught himself to play piano when he was six years old, and accompanied a touring evangelist in his teenage years. In the 1940s, Monk played at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, and was with Lucky Millinder’s orchestra for a period in 1942, and Cootie Williams’ in 1944. He made his first recordings as bandleader in 1947 for Blue Note. With a unique approach to music, and life, Monk’s work lacked public appeal initially, and his recordings sold poorly for some years, though he was regarded highly by fellow musicians and jazz aficionados. In 1951, police confiscated his cabaret card, and he was unable to play in nightclubs until he regained it in 1957. Eventually, Monk became regarded as one of the greats of jazz music, having composed such standards as “‘Round Midnight”, “Straight, No Chaser”, and “Blue Monk”. Monk left the music scene in the 1970s, and died in 1982.
Hit 7119 was recorded October 22, 1944 in New York by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra. The band features Williams, Ermit V. Perry, George Treadwell, Lammar Wright, and Tommy Stevenson on trumpet, Ed Burke, Ed Glover, and Robert Horton on trombone, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Frank Powell on alto sax, Sam “The Man” Taylor and Lee Pope on tenor sax, Eddie de Verteuil on baritone sax, Bud Powell on piano, Leroy Kirkland on guitar, Carl Pruitt on bass, and Sylvester “Vess” Payne on drums.
First, Cootie and the band play the first ever recording made of Thelonious Monk’s famous “‘Round Midnight”, claimed to be the most recorded standard composed by a jazz musician.
Next up, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson shouts the blues on “Somebody’s Gotta Go”.