It had to have started, like most things did in high school, as a rumor. Danny Scher, a student at a local high school in Palo Alto, California, had printed flyers, and tried to sell tickets to what he promised would be a landmark show for his school: The Thelonious Monk quartet would be playing on October 27, 1968, in the high school. And like most rumors in high school: No one actually believed it.
Monk, after all, was at the height of his powers, behind Miles Davis in 1968 as probably the most beloved figure in all of jazz. He and his band were playing a club date at night on the 27th of October, 1968, which gave Scher the opportunity he needed: He called up Monk himself and agreed to a fee, and booked him to play an afternoon set at the high school. Monk’s finances weren’t in the best shape they’d ever been, and his band was playing three weeks in San Francisco during the peak of flower power, so an extra gig that paid well was a no-brainer for the group, even if it seemed like it was being booked by a kid (it was).
But when Scher—who’d later go on to be a concert promoter—tried to sell tickets to his fellow students, no one believed him. Hardly anyone bought tickets. But Scher told everyone who would listen that Monk was going to show up, and if they didn’t believe him, they could buy tickets at the door.
And when that fateful day came, Monk and his band showed up in the Scher family car, and students from both East Palo Alto and Palo Alto proper rushed to buy tickets to the concert. The group launched into a set that included fiery takes of “Don’t Blame Me,” “Blue Monk” and “Well, You Needn’t,” among others, showing the talents of Monk’s quartet of Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Larry Gales (bass), and Ben Riley (drums). When the band finished, they rose to a standing ovation, and headed quickly back to San Francisco to make their club date on time.
Meanwhile, the show was captured by, get this, the school’s janitor, who recorded the show in one of the best sounding Monk dates from this era. The tapes from the show were kept by Scher as a memento of how he got his start in the concert business, until they were recently rediscovered by Scher, and brought to Monk’s son, T.S. Monk, who partnered with the legendary Impulse records to release the album for the first time ever. You can buy the album on exclusive color vinyl via the VMP store here, and you can hear the first single below:
A lost album from a jazz legend will finally get the audience it deserves.