The Montmarte Masks

If you have seen videos filmed at the Montmartre club in Copenhagen in the 1950s and ’60s, you may have wondered about the stylized wall masks that often show up in the opening moments. Rifftides reader Dave Bernard has wondered about them, too. Mr. Bernard researched the masks and reports the results in the comments section of a recent post about Bud Powell. To see the masks and what he has learned, go here.
While we’re at it, we may as well enjoy more of Powell at the Montmartre with bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and drummer Jorn Elniff in 1962. During the first minute of the video, there is a wide shot of the wall of masks. Despite YouTube‘s lower-third card, the proper title of Thelonious Monk’s piece is “‘Round Midnight,” not “Around Midnight.”

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  1. rootlesscosmo says

    That’s gorgeous playing, but it’s a scandal how out of tune the piano was. (Almost the whole second octave above middle C is off–the unisons just aren’t in unison.) So many great recordings of those years, both live performances and studio productions, have this problem; I don’t know if this is due to the skimpy budgets of clubs and jazz labels, or to an attitude of disrespect for the artists and the music, but it must have been unpleasant (at least) to make music on such an ungenerous instrument, and it’s all the more extraordinary that Bud, Monk, Horace Silver (Messengers at Cafe Bohemia) and others managed to overcome the challenge.