"MONK's "Wee See" with two tenor saxophone solos by Frank Foster on May 11, 1954
I have long enjoyed an aspect of “Wee See” as recorded by a Thelonious Monk Quintet on May 11, 1954. It is the dimension of two separate tenor saxophone solos by the late and great Frank Foster. This is most unusual – to have two solos on a performance, even more so for a sideman and not the leader. And “Wee See” is a relatively short track – about 5 minutes and 14 seconds. Frank Foster is the only person with two solos.
The outline of the performance is:
introduction/ melody/ Monk piano solo 2 choruses/ Frank Foster tenor solo one chorus/ Ray Copeland trumpet solo one chorus/ Frank Foster back for his second helping, tenor solo one chorus/ melody.
Most unusual is it not?
Discography offers no help. “Wee See” was recorded by Prestige Records and their master ledgers inform us that “Wee See” was recorded first at this May 11, 1954 Thelonious Monk Quintet session. The tune was accorded the master number 570 and there is no take information. This is what stated:
Thelonious Monk Quintet: Ray Copeland (trumpet) Frank Foster (tenor saxophone) Thelonious Monk (piano) Curly Russell (bass) Art Blakey (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, May 11, 1954
570: Wee See / 571: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes / 572: Locomotive / 573: Hackensack.
The music was initially issued on a “10” Lp by Prestige Records entitled “Thelonious Monk Quintet” and carrying the catalog number 180 (PR Lp 180).
So, what’s the story?
My analysis is that at least two takes of “Wee See” were recorded and that the tenor saxophone and trumpet solo order was changed between takes. In preparing the master 570 of “Wee See” for issue on Prestige 180, two takes were edited to created one master. For reasons that, in the absence of outtake material, may never be clearly known, the editing tends to suggest that the master 570 preserves the portion of one take where Frank Foster on tenor takes the first solo before the trumpet and connects it to a second take where Frank Foster on tenor takes the second solo after the trumpet – the edit coming at a point which allows both Foster solos to be heard.
The edit is in Art Blakey’s cymbal crash that tags Ray Copeland’s trumpet solo from the take where Frank Foster solos first before the trumpet, and joins to a portion of a different take where Frank Foster soloed after the trumpet.
This is the simplest solution and most likely what occurred.
However: where the second tenor solo is inserted, there seems to be a second edit at the end of that inserted solo after four Blakey stick stings that connects to the concluding melody statement.
Did that happen?
If it did, then it supports a different theory to the edited master 570 of the known and issued “Wee See”. That theory would fold into my correspondence with Frank Foster on this matter just over seven years ago. It entertains that there is an artistic purpose to having both Foster solos on this fairly short track and that the editing was done to that need. It would also allow the possibility that Frank soloed before the trumpet in each take and dropping in the early solo from a different take necessitated the additional edit.
In the previous scenario, the explanation most likely would be that one take has a better opening statement and the other a superior closing. Editing them together, inadvertently, exposed the change in solo order.
Frank Foster liked the idea that he provided two quality solos and that those involved felt they both needed to be heard, hence the additional editing.
I include my correspondence with Frank from late 2005.
December 30, 2005
I’ve always enjoyed that you came back and took a second helping on “Wee See” with Thelonious Monk for Prestige back on May 11, 1954.
Still, I believe that your second solo was introduced by tape editing.
In other words:
“WEE SEE” - intro/ head/ Monk piano solo 2 choruses/ YOU (the great Frank Foster) tenor solo one chorus/ Ray Copeland one chorus/ YOU (the great Frank Foster) back for the second helping, one chorus/ head
I think that your second solo is spliced in from an alternate take.
The first edit is in Art Blakey’s cymbal crash that tags Ray Copeland’s trumpet solo
THEN YOUR SECOND TENOR SOLO IS INSERTED
The second edit is at the end of that inserted solo after four Blakey stick stings THERE’S THE EDIT back to the head.
What do you think about that dear Frank? Is it not odd that you take two solos?
All The Best To You and Cecilia:HAPPY NEW YEARPhil
December 31, 2005
You’re probably correct in assuming that my second solo on Thelonious Monk’s “Wee See” was introduced by tape editing. In retrospect I’m very flattered (and flattened) that such a thing was done. I’d like to believe that both solos were so good that Monk (or someone) insisted that they be on the same track. Yes, it is odd that I take two solos on that recording. I like it. I consider it very much an honor to have such a distinction in music. Two solos on one track of a Thelonious Monk recording! Wow!!
All I can say is it would take a Phil Schaap to take notice of this phenomenon and bring it to public notice. Thanks. I would never in a thousand years have had it brought to my attention. Also, an Art Blakey cymbal crash punctuates my solo! Whether I knew it or not at the time, I was in the midst of great royalty!
Happy New Year to you, too, Mr. Schaap. Keep searching, and see what other intriguing facts you can uncover in that wonderful world of American Classical Music.