Blessed with the most wonderful birth name in American music, Thelonious Sphere Monk was one of the 20th century’s great artists of the piano and one of its enduring composers of jazz. He only ever recorded one film score, for Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a semi-scandalous French adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 18th century novel (later adapted as Dangerous Liasons and Cruel Intentions) directed by Roger Vadim. The film—which is also known as Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960, despite being released in 1959—came in the midst of a vogue for mood-setting jazz scoring in French film that started with Miles Davis’ groundbreaking music for Elevator To The Gallows, and continued with Art Blakey’s score for The Road To Shame, the French-Algerian pianist Martial Solal’s work on Breathless and Two Men In Manhattan, and the soundtrack for Les Tricheurs, which featured contributions from Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Coleman Hawkins, and Stan Getz.
Many of these, including both Elevator To The Gallows and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, were masterminded by the French jazz promoter, producer, and music supervisor Marcel Romano. Romano in fact helped get two jazz scores recorded for Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Monk’s music, and a set of supplementary cues written by pianist Duke Jordan and performed by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers for a party sequence. For whatever reason, only the Jordan music has ever been released as a soundtrack album. But as New York’s WBGO reveals, that will change next month, when Sam Records and Saga Jazz will put out Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960, a complete release of the score, which previously could only be heard in the film.
Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 will first be released as a double LP set on April 22nd, better known as Record Store Day. A two-CD set will follow on May 19. For more information (and a chance to hear one of Monk’s cues), WBGO has the scoop.