Thelonious Sphere Monk would have been 100 on Tuesday. He was my gateway into Jazz. I liked Jazz, the way I enjoyed "classical" music, in that I admired it for academic reasons. Not because I thought it was fun.
My first father in law, James, was born, raised, and retired in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Monk's birthplace. Although he didn't play an instrument, he was a lifelong music fan of extraordinary enthusiasm. James loved Jazz and Bluegrass in no particular order. The first time we met I walked into a room full of records. He knew I was a musician. He couldn't wait to spin some, so when he asked what I wanted to hear, I said, "How about some Thelonious Monk?"
He lit up. "Good answer," I thought.
In reality all I knew was "Monk Suite" by the Kronos Quartet.
He pulled out "Underground" (1968), , and played the opener, "Thelonious", an old tune first recorded in 1947, and the right song at the right time. I was instantly hooked. And it's only 3 minutes long.
Eric Dolphy's "Out To Lunch"was next. I proceeded to ransack the collection, making a 90 minute mix tape. Volume 1 of "I Don't Know My Jazz From a Hole In The Ground". I was "in" with James.
That's why I felt bad, when a few years later, I returned his daughter like a defective appliance.
Monk was first to wear the beret and dark glasses, and is the second most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed more than a thousand pieces, whereas Monk wrote about 70.
Here is Monk at his prime performing "Hackensack":
I made this cover of "Well, You Needn't", playing electric guitars. Everything else is a sample.
Guests include Monk, Duke, Miles, Coltrane, Mingus, Joey Baron, Ralph Towner, and others.
Well, You Needn't