I Could Be A Monk… Happy Birthday, Thelonious

I could be… especially the ones who brew the beer and… what?  No women???  Forget it.  I just made all those love jams for heaven’s sake!!!

My friend Steve posted that today was Thelonious Monk’s birthday, so that pretty much assured I would be doing something by him today.  Of course, once I was into it, I found out he was born a few days ago.  Doh.

At least according to Wikipedia, Monk was born on October 10, 1917 and passed on February 17, 1982.

I own a few CDs and have a few things in my iTunes, and keep in mind, that one of the reasons for starting My Tunes: The Albums Project was to make sure I went back and actually listened to all the music I own… a lot of which is buried in my massive iTunes collection.  But… Well… I happened to do a search on Spotify and found this amazing live record.  Once I started listening, especially to the quality, I was hooked.

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane – At Carnegie Hall (Nov. 29, 1957)

Spotify quotes AllMusic: “Larry Applebaum, the recording lab supervisor at the Library of Congress, came across this tape by accident while transferring the library’s tape archive to digital.”  Nice.

“This is one of those “historic” recordings that becomes an instant classic and is one of the truly great finds in jazz lore.  It documents a fine band with its members at the peak of their powers together.”

I love jazz but am by no means an expert.  I can talk about what I like and why, but as far as technical terms and understanding, forget it.  With that said, I will use some background material to explain what is going on, since I know many of you know this music inside and out.

Monk was a pianist and composer and a true jazz giant.  Just check out Ken Burns and his massive Jazz documentary.

1988’s Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser is another great documentary.  However, seeing Monk’s mental illness issues is quite sad, especially in that they probably went misdiagnosed and caused further health problems.

I also find it interesting that “Monk’s last six years were spent as a guest in the New Jersey home of his long-standing patron and friend, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, who had also nursed Charlie Parker during his final illness.”  I believe at least one of the documentaries discusses their relationship in detail.

From Wikipedia:  “Monk is the second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed over 1,000 songs while Monk wrote about 70.”

This album is absolutely stunning.  What a find indeed.  I love the opener “Monk’s Mood” and “Sweet and Lovely” and of course  “Epistrophy” and “Blue Monk”, which are considered jazz standards now and show off both John Coltrane and Monk in a stellar light.

AllMusic says: Check the joyous “Crepuscule with Nellie”… Coltrane’s cue and Monk’s arpeggios are wondrous, swinging, and full of fire and joy. Trane’s fills on the melody that leads into his solo are simply revelatory, and the solo itself is brilliant.”

No way I could have said that… so there you go.

So since becoming a Trappist monk is now out for me… I will definitely be going with this Monk!  Happy Birthday… Belated.

Today’s post is dedicated to the late and amazing Freddie Gruber, who passed away yesterday.  I loved seeing him in the Rush documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.  It seems like he saved the career of Neil Peart for sure!

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1 Comment

Filed under Life... Plain and Not So Simple, Marc's Mixed Bag - A Little Of Everything, Marc's Playlist - Music That Moves Me, One Thumb - My Movie Reviews

One response to “I Could Be A Monk… Happy Birthday, Thelonious

  1. Pat O'Connor

    Great reference, Marc. This must have been a remarkable night. Also on the bill (tickets ranging from $2 to $3.95) were Miss Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie Ochestra, Chet Baker with Zoot Sims, Ray Charles and introducing Sonny Rollins, who still dazzles us today. 1957 was a banner year for both men, with Monk getting his cabaret license back a Coltrane kicked his drug addiction in exchange for his great spiritual awakening. Monk’s support and patience with Trane during this time is not to be discounted. This is a great disc to go past the digital and get yourself a carbon based copy as the liner notes are great and point towards other fine reading on these giants of American culture.

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