Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and More on the Classic Jazz 625 Show

In April of 1964, the British Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion launched BBC Two as a high­brow alter­na­tive to its main­stream TV chan­nel. One of the new chan­nel’s first pro­grams was Jazz 625, which spot­light­ed many of the great­est Jazz musi­cians of the day. Dizzy Gille­spie, Thelo­nious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans and oth­ers per­formed on the show, which fea­tured straight-for­ward cam­era work and a min­i­mal­ist set. The focus was on the music.

The title of the show referred to the chan­nel’s 625-line UHF band­width, which offered high­er res­o­lu­tion than the 405-line VHF trans­mis­sion on BBC One. Among the sur­viv­ing episodes is Thelo­nious Monk’s March 14, 1965 per­for­mance at the Mar­quee Club in Lon­don. You can watch a 35-minute excerpt above. The quar­tet fea­tures Monk on piano, Char­lie Rouse on tenor sax­o­phone, Lar­ry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums. They per­form four num­bers:

  1. Straight No Chas­er
  2. Hack­en­sack
  3. Rhythm-A-Ning
  4. Epistro­phy

You can learn the sto­ry behind Jazz 625 by read­ing an arti­cle by Louis Barfe at Trans­d­if­fu­sion. And to see more from the shows, scroll down.

The Oscar Peter­son Trio:

Above is a 25-minute excerpt from the Oscar Peter­son Tri­o’s Octo­ber 1, 1964 per­for­mance. The orig­i­nal show, like oth­er episodes of Jazz 625, was over an hour long. The trio fea­tures Peter­son on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thig­pen on drums.

The Bill Evans Trio:

Above are two 35-minute episodes, shown back-to-back, fea­tur­ing the Bill Evans Trio. The two sets were record­ed on March 19, 1965 and fea­ture Evans on piano, Chuck Israels on bass and Lar­ry Bunker on drums.

The Mod­ern Jazz Quar­tet:

The Mod­ern Jazz Quar­tet per­formed for Jazz 625 on April 28, 1964. Above is a 27-minute except, fea­tur­ing the Quar­tet’s musi­cal direc­tor John Lewis on piano, Milt Jack­son on vibra­phone, Per­cy Heath on bass and Con­nie Kay on drums. Brazil­ian gui­tarist Lau­rindo Almei­da makes a spe­cial appear­ance.

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  • Dennis Nelson says:

    We shall nev­er expe­ri­ence this qual­i­ty of jazz bril­liance again. The zeit­geist of the time, and the envi­ron­ment to which these genius­es were exposed is gone for­ev­er.

  • PaulfromNoVa says:

    Fab­u­lous stuff. Den­nis is spot on: these great play­ers were all the Cre­ators and were all able to touch the Mas­ters who wrote the music down and whose impro­vi­sa­tions on the band­stand and on 78s and LPs were burned into each oth­ers’ minds. Play­ers today may be tech­ni­cal bril­liant but the moment of great and inno­v­a­tive cre­ativ­i­ty is end­ed. It’s now a clas­si­cal Amer­i­can art, most­ly repro­duced in con­cert halls; even the great impro­vis­ers — the ones who make you cry out, “where the f*** did he find that note?” — are deriv­a­tive: they’s assim­i­lat­ed all those records and runs and give it back to you in vari­a­tions. EVERY NOW AND THEN, though, you hear some­thing dif­fer­ent (guys like Greg Osby and Jacky Ter­ras­son as play­ers, not com­posers, find some beau­ti­ful, unique-to-my-ears musi­cal notes and shapes, but not like Monk, Trane, Miles, Duke and his band, Bill Evans in the clas­sic trio…).

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