Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Boris Boots Monk

Monk in San Francisco, about to record for Riverside and accompanied by a mirthful Pannonica deKoenigswarter, popsicle and SF Chronicle in hand. Wonder what Monk has just said? William Claxton photo

Here's that bootleg I mentioned a couple of posts ago. A late offering for Monk's (now long-passed) birthday, we'll call it. A friend and visitor saw my reference to the Boris Rose bootleg which gave that earlier Monk posting its title, and he asked if I could upload the recording. Well, the way it works here at Gems is ... your wish is my command. So here 'tis.

The dapper Mr. Rose in his
later years.
But who is Boris Rose, you ask? Long-time collectors know the name because he was one of the original bootleggers of jazz material on a large scale. That was because he was one of the most obsessive documenters of jazz in the history of the music. From the mid-'40s right up until the 1990s, Mr. Rose recorded music and spoken word programs off radio and television broadcasts at an astounding rate. In the late '60s, he began to release some of the more historic tape recordings on his own highly idiosyncratic record labels. By 1969, you couldn't go into a reasonably large record store in any major city without encountering a raft of Rose product. You'd recognize them by their simple line-art, black-and-white covers, oddball titles and sketchy liner notes (when there were any notes at all). The music they contained was often some of the best by some of jazz's greatest artists, but their production quality was iffy, the editing amateurish and the recording info often wrong (sometimes purposefully so).

Needless to say, I collected as many Rose records as I could back in those days, and this Monk release is one of the best of them. There are no real surprises here: Monk is his usual superlative self, and John Ore and Frankie Dunlop keep a lid on things with aplomb. Charlie Rouse, one of the unheralded greats on tenor, takes some wild liberties with the High Priest's melodies while the leader lays out. Too bad he stayed so long buried under Monk's genius. I wonder what Rouse would have done if he'd followed his own muse?

Daughter Elaine Rose with Boris' picture and a sampling
of his massive tape archive. Wall Street Journal photo
A few more words about Boris Rose. The gent died in 2000, leaving his vast archive of tapes, acetates and records in the basement of his house in Brooklyn. I'd always heard he lived in a railroad flat on the Lower East Side that was filled to the ceilings with musty tape boxes, but it was not so. He was a compulsive recordist, but he was also compulsively organized in cataloging and storing his treasures. His holdings were so great that they hadn't even been cataloged by 2010 when his daughters were trying desperately to find someone or some institution to take the collection off their hands. I don't know if they succeeded, but you can read about their efforts here. And here's a quirky video that critic and author Will Friedwald made of his visit to the archive in Brooklyn (I always imagined Friedwald to be a rangy, cowpoke sort of fellow – boy, was I wrong).

Of course, one of the great problems with a collection like the Rose archive is the copyright issue. Who owns the rights to all that recorded material? And if any of it is ever to be released, how will the producers properly compensate the artists and ASCAP, BMI and all the rest? These were niceties that never troubled Boris. He just put stuff out, collected two bucks for each LP and kept recording.

Kind of like what we bloggers do today (except for the two-bucks part).

But whatever the fate of the Rose archives, this is one of its better documents. I've left his clipped starts and stops in so you can savior the full Boris Rose effect. Otherwise, the sound on the record is pretty much just the way it was way back in 1963 when Monk spent a few nights broadcasting from Birdland. Thanks, Boris!

Spastic and Personal 
Thelonious Monk
Alto AL 725
Thelonious Monk, p; Charlie Rouse, ts;
John Ore, b; Frankie Dunlop, d.
March 9, 16, 23, 1963; Birdland, New York, NY

1. Bright Mississippi
2. Epistrophy
3. ‘Round Midnight
4. Sweet and Lovely
5. Evidence

Find it here: https://www.mediafire.com/?tq3tcc37t4k6xhb


  1. I thank you for this post. I love these Boris Rose issues, not perfect in sound but interesting to listen.

  2. I've been away to long. Very excited to check this out and the Moody recording from your previous post. Thank you for keeping on here. You always provide great stuff.

    1. Glad you're back, jc. It takes me a while, but I'm always working on something to post. Come back every so often, and there's bound to be something you'll find interesting ...

    2. This has long been a regular stop for me. Life, as they say, had hit a bit of a busy patch lately and so I hadn't been back as regularly as in the past. Happy to be back more regularly now and digging the posts I missed. Thank you, again, for all you do.

  3. Thank you.
    All Monk's fans will be delighted.

  4. Another person touched by the Boris Rose effect: Tony Randall!

    I remember seeing him on a talk show, probably Carson, telling how he smuggled a tape deck into the Met on several occasions to make private opera recordings. Randall was a huge opera fan.

  5. Greetings from the Land Where Music Is Not Quite Banned But Officially Frowned Upon!
    Thank you for your fantastic posts on this blog. Would you be as kind as to repost this gem?
    Thanks, Andy (Monk devotee, KSA)

    1. What land is that, T? Sounds like a terrible place. Music, of course, lives here on Gems. The link has been fixed. You can find Monk at https://www.mediafire.com/?tq3tcc37t4k6xhb. Enjoy!