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Charles Tolliver and Jason Moran to Mark 50th Anniversary of Monk’s Town Hall Concert

Duke Performances and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University will present two concerts on February 26 and 27 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Thelonious Monk’s seminal Town Hall concert in New York City, the first time Monk’s music was ever played by a big band.

Trumpeter Charles Tolliver and pianist Jason Moran will salute Monk (pictured) by creating their takes on the original concert, using never-before-heard recordings and images shot during rehearsals by legendary photographer W. Eugene Smith, who also lived in the “Jazz Loft” rehearsal building, where Monk and his band practiced. WNYC Radio (93.9 FM and, the nation’s largest public radio station, will air an exclusive live broadcast of the February 26th concert, anchored by Evening Music host Terrance McKnight, and will tape the February 27th concert for later broadcast.

February 26, 2009

8 pm

Charles Tolliver-“The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall, 1959: Reviving a Landmark”

A self-taught trumpet wizard and virtuoso arranger, Charles Tolliver attended Monk’s 1959 Town Hall performance as a teenager and has kept faith with the African American rhythms, large sounds and group dynamics of Monk’s orchestral form. Having performed with Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins and Max Roach, he leads The Charles Tolliver Orchestra in revisiting Monk’s monumental Town Hall collaboration with Hall Overton, using an entirely new set of transcriptions, which Tolliver made from exclusive access to the original Jazz Loft rehearsal tapes. Tolliver reflects, “Even though it was a daunting task working on this historic project, it gave me a great deal of pleasure while doing it, reliving and remembering how I absorbed Monk during my formative years, and how and why I fell in love with what was to become my life’s work, a jazz musician.”

February 27, 2009

8 pm

Jason Moran-“In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959”

Jason Moran, prodigy pianist, gifted composer and heir to the Monk tradition, brings together an eight-piece band, “The Big Bandwagon,” for a full-length, original multi-media piece based on Monk’s Town Hall show, including photos by acclaimed photographer W. Eugene Smith, and never-before-heard recordings of Monk and Overton. Thirty-one year-old Moran has a nimble, unapologetically eclectic piano style that’s won him critical awards and a reputation as a young genius following in the footsteps of Monk, whom Moran cites as his inspiration for becoming a pianist. “It’s not just to do with my playing,” Moran says of the performance. “I want to have the audience think more about who Monk was in America.”

Tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster. For more information, visit Monk at Town

Monk photo courtesy of the heirs of W. Eugene Smith and the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.

Originally Published