Thursday, October 12, 2017

100 IF

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



Sal Nunziato said...

That "Well You Needn't" is pretty damn impressive. Nice job. Some of my favorite Monk stuff is the Black Lion period, which isn't really considered very good. I beg to differ.

A walk in the woods said...

Monk's my favorite jazz musician, and in my top 10 of any musicians. Cool story about your history with his music.

Gene Oberto said...


Thanks so much for your timely reminder. Like you, I "knew" jazz and classical but didn't give those genres much room in my early listening years. Brubeck's "Take Five" and a "Raggey Waltz" were the extents of my jazz listening.

I came to Monk much too late in life but not so late that I can't enjoy his music for the rest of it. To me, Monk is the Rosetta stone for those who wonder what all this Bop is about. We can grab snatches of the others, but Thelonious welcomes you into a wonder world of new but somehow comforting and familiar sound. "Well, You Needn't" is a great way to start.

I love his "singing" along with his solos. Talk about a joyful noise!

Happy Birthday, Theo! I'll take mine "Straight with No Chaser."

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

Love Monk, also. Crepuscule with Nellie still sounds amazing to me. I also never tire of hearing his Ellington album.

BTW...hey Beeb....holy smokes, that was an awesome take on Well, You Needn't.


J. Loslo said...

I have a question. I know squat about jazz, but when I heard "Well, You Needn't" a few years back, it was instantly familiar. Has it had some kind of popular exposure, as in actual radio play or use in a film or television program, where a non-jazz person like me might have come to know it?

buzzbabyjesus said...

WNYC/NPR uses a phrase of Monk, possibly "Well, You Needn't" as a transition.

J. Loslo said...

Hmmm. I'll ponder that. Thanks.