I bonded with Thelonious Monk’s music early—at age 15 or so through repeated listenings to his piano improvisation on Miles Davis’ 1954 Christmas eve recording of Bag’s Groove. Monk’s choruses, for all their newness, proved to be wholly engaging—tuneful (in a very angular and repetitive way), swinging (much like James P. Johnson, Ellington, and Basie whose music I had already heard to an extent), and above all, playful—in their goofy dissonances, their unpredictable use of space, and in their sheer joyfulness. I had read that Monk was supposed to be bopper—musical kin to Parker, Gillespie, and Bud Powell, all of whose music I was also sampling at that time, but he didn’t sound like one to me. In an odd sort of way, the audacious Monk seemed more of a spiritual brother to 1920s Louis Armstrong than to his 1940s contemporaries and I loved him for it. His music was at once both old and new and I was hooked.
Many years later, I still am. As both a composer and as a player Monk has proved to be an invaluable teacher. Some of the lessons learned: 1) the melody of the tune is the best resource for material to use in both solo improvisations and accompaniment, 2) whatever the tempo, make the listener want to get up and dance, 3) your individual sound is much more potent than an imitation of someone else’s, and most importantly, 4) trust your own musical instincts, no matter what.
Thelonious Monk’s tunes always seem fresh and adaptable, regardless of the instrumentation or stylistic setting. Putting this concert together has been a joy—his music always brings out the best in everyone.
$10 general admission, $5 seniors, FREE for all students.
Monday, March 6 at 7:00pm
Winifred Moore Auditorium
470 E. Lockwood Ave., St. Louis, MO 63119