The legendary, inimitable, pioneering Thelonious Monk for an Easter Sunday. Can’t think of a better occasion to celebrate this joyous, astonishing and thoroughly captivating music from one of the innovators of the form and one of the great voices in Jazz.
The music of Thelonious Monk; when he first arrived on the scene he was hailed by many as The Genius Of Modern Music – I think Bluenote Records had something to do with that from a marketing standpoint. But, for as many fans as Monk made in those early years, he had more than his fair share of detractors. Some critics declared his style to be revolutionary and that his point of view was, in fact genius. Others decried his style – contending that he really didn’t know the piano at all, but was faking it – and faking it produced some successful, if not inconsistent results. Even traditionalists branded this genre (along with other practitioners of Bop at the time) as “Chinese Music” (a derogatory term used to describe anything dissonant or off-beat – Guzheng players would beg to differ).
But like all revolutionary changes in music, you’re going to have the ones who don’t like it for a lot of reasons, but mostly out of fear of change. Bop came along and freed everything up, giving expression and individuality a forum in which to flourish. Not everybody eventually flocked to Bop – far from it. There were still traditionalists, still the ones who saw ensemble playing as the sole property of the Big Band. And that prevailed throughout the 50s and into the 60s – living alongside those newer ideas – making converts as time went on.
But the thing that stands out for me – listening to this concert from 1965, a good twenty years since Bop took center stage, is that this stuff still sounds fresh. As much or as many times as I’ve heard Monk, there is still something to discover with each hearing. That speaks volumes about the timeless quality of innovation and individuality – like a good book, good film, good work of art – good music is something that you visit over and over again and it continues to feel new.
If you’re coming to the music of Thelonious Monk now, or made the discovery just recently – he’s part of a vast and fascinating world that will feed your soul. Fans already know – the choir doesn’t need to be preached to. The notes just speak for themselves.
Crank it up and enjoy.