Larry Appelbaum is a familiar name for jazz fans all over the country. As Senior Studio Engineer at Library of Congress, he discovered the legendary tape of the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall in 1957, a recording that was released by Blue Note records in 2005. Appelbaum, who is now a Senior Music Reference Specialist in the Music Division at the Library of Congress, also writes about jazz, programs concerts in D.C., and has a weekly radio show, “Sound of Surprise,” on WPFW.

In the spring, Sonny Rollins will release another one of Appelbaum’s discoveries, a broadcast recording of the saxophonist’s 1957 Carnegie Hall debut.

I corresponded with Appelbaum over e-mail earlier this week.

Black Plastic Bag: I just read in the Nation that Sonny Rollins is releasing another one of your discoveries on his Doxy label. Was this tape better marked than the Monk-Coltrane tape?

Appelbaum: Both the Monk-Coltrane and the Sonny Rollins Trio tapes were discovered at the Library of Congress at the same time back in Jan. of ’05. All of these eight Voice of America tapes from the benefit concert were labeled “Carnegie Hall Jazz 1957” on the spine, and the Rollins tapes included hand-written notes on the back with his name and the song titles. For what it’s worth, we also found the original reels of the Zoot Sims Quartet with Chet Baker, the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra and Ray Charles from that same night. Billie Holiday also performed that night but the tapes haven’t been found and may not have survived.

Black Plastic Bag: What can a Rollins fan look forward to hearing on this tape?

Appelbaum: Sonny Rollins was a special attraction for this concert, so his sets that night were very short. In one, he just performs “Moritat” (a.k.a. “Mack The Knife”). In the other he plays “Sonnymoon For Two” and “Some Enchanted Evening.” He’s backed by Wendell Marshall, bass and Kenny Dennis, drums. As jazz fans know, 1957 was a particularly fruitful time for Rollins (think Way Out West, Newk’s Time and A Night At The Village Vanguard) and it’s great to hear him live, in his prime. His version of “Moritat” is especially memorable.

Black Plastic Bag: What was the reaction from the Rollins camp when you told them that you’d found it?

Appelbaum: We sent a copy to Sonny Rollins via his nephew Clifton Anderson and I never heard a word back from them. Then last month I read in Ben Ratliff‘s New York Times piece that they are going to release it along with the recordings of his recent Carnegie Hall concert inspired by the discovery of the 1957 tapes.

Black Plastic Bag: How does it feel to be unearthing all of this exciting archival material?

Appelbaum: I’m just glad that the world will finally be able to hear these performances, and it’s nice that it happens while Rollins is still with us to enjoy the fruits.

On a related note, Appelbaum is promoting a show that is happening tonight at Twins. Here’s the info:

New Orleans Avant Jazz Legend Makes Rare DC Appearance

Transparent Productions presents:

KIDD JORDAN – saxophones
JOEL FUTTERMAN – piano,sax, indian flute
ALVIN FIELDER – drums, percussion

Thursday Oct. 11, 2007
8:00 pm


Twins Jazz
1344 U St. N.W.
(202) 234-0072

admission: $15 + one drink minimum
100% of the door goes to the musicians