Happy 100th birthday to Thelonious Monk

Here’s Monk playing four Duke Ellington tunes, followed by his own “Crepuscule with Nellie” and a blues.

Here’s Monk playing one of his greatest hits, “Blue Monk.”

A weirder and less approachable tune, “Epistrophy.”

A standard tune, “Don’t Blame Me.”

A famous(ly weird) solo.

An appreciation of Monk’s best-known tune, “Round Midnight.”

A haiku by Martin Urbach:

Tritone Tritone Bam!
Not afraid of wild rhythms
Flat nines belong here.

From an interview with Ashley Kahn:

The way that he performed on piano, some would say even attacked the piano; if you look at videos of him it’s almost like he is playing a percussion instrument, and of course the piano in its most basic sense is a percussion instrument. Those are hammers hitting strings. But the way that he approached it, he looks more like a conga player coming out the Caribbean.

What Monk was about was closer to where Miles Davis would go with the use of space, with the use of that sort of internal dialogue that’s going on with the player and the listener being kind of invited in, so that the pauses become so dramatic that it feels like you’re inside his head as he’s kind of deciding “what is the next note that I’m going to play and why is it going to be this, or what is the next chord?”

Musicians: get a copy of the Hal Leonard Monk fakebook, it’s lovingly transcribed and accurate.

One thought on “Happy 100th birthday to Thelonious Monk

Leave a Reply