Some of you readers may have read past articles of mine talking about the glories of Wolfgang’s Vault, the online repository for the personal audio archives (and more) of the late Bill Graham. Concert promoter and artist supporter supreme, the vault — honoring Graham’s birth name, Wolfgang — holds a wealth of historic material recorded largely during his lifetime. The company sells subscriptions and downloads; they DO pay royalties to the artists and their respective estates.
Curiously, beyond recordings made during Bill Graham’s lifetime as a promoter, Wolfgang’s Vault contains quite a number of amazing recordings made as far back as the 1950s before he was actively promoting concerts (perhaps he bought some other companies along the way in growing his company; I do not know).
One such recording is by the late great Thelonius Monk, captured in full flight at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1959. This set, featuring Charlie Rouse on Tenor Sax and Sam Jones on Bass captures Monk riding a wave of appreciation which ultimately led to his signing to Columbia Records in 1962.
While it is all fine and good that this excellent set is up on Wolfgang’s Vault for your streaming pleasure, the archive upped the ante significantly earlier this year when it started offering limited edition 180-gram vinyl LP pressings of select performances as an enticement to become a paid subscriber. One of them happens to be this very Thelonius Monk Newport set.
Intrigued, but already a paid subscriber, I found out that I could obtain the Monk LP by buying a gift subscription for a friend.
So, I gave my friend Rick a subscription for his birthday and after several months of waiting, I DID get the Monk LP. Score!
Wolfgang’s Vault had some bugs to work out in the pressing process apparently, thus the time delay. But, it was worth the wait! I am very pleased that with how this album sounds — there is no information for certain, but it sure sounds like it was recorded from an original source reel too reel tape that must have been running during the show. Its likely not made from the (relatively lo fi) MP3 streams that you hear on the free version of Wolfgang’s Vault (higher fidelity streams and select free downloads are yours with the subscription).
This is a fine addition to my collection, pressed on sweet, dead quiet 180-gram vinyl, pressed near-perfectly centered. The cover art is even made to look like a vintage release from the period — this could have easily been a release on Riverside Records — with liner notes by noted music critic and writer Bill Milkowski.
This is no bootleg quality release — this recording sounds amazing, with a wonderful sense of the Newport stage coming through the speakers.
You can still get this Monk album (as well as other archive releases by Miles Davis and Van Morrison). Wolfgang’s Vault has just announced another deal worth your consideration: a two LP set by Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble recorded at the Austin Opera House (April 15, 1984). This is cool news because you get it with a new two year membership
Or, if you are a subscriber like me, you can get it if you extend your membership for two years.
Hmm….. this is tempting!
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who’s songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he’s written: www.dialthemusical.com.