The Unique Thelonious Monk
October 8, 2013 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1/10)

Bonus link: So, Was He Crazy, or What?

The fact is that, like many laypeople (as well as far too many professionals), Kelley confuses a serious condition with an eccentric personality. Before psychiatry made everything a [reimbur$able] flaw, "cyclothymic" people were simply considered "moody"; they didn't suffer from any inherent mental disorder. When people experienced negative life events, they were able to panic, rant, rail at the gods, weep, and even act bizarrely for a bit without incurring a dark diagnosis that subsequently followed them to the grave (and beyond).

Bonus track: Thelonious Monk Quartet 1962 ~ Rhythm-A-Ning
posted by KokuRyu (12 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Obscure cross post.

Crazy like a fox, a very cool fox.
posted by sammyo at 8:49 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I might add that the YouTube comments on TM videos are often obscurely hilarious.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:56 AM on October 8, 2013

I remember hearing an interview where Monk explained that he sometimes played two notes simultaneously when what he really wanted was the (non-existent) note in-between. What sane man would have such an imagination?
posted by three blind mice at 9:15 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's a common technique for playing blue notes on a piano. Of course the note in between exists. You can play it on guitar by bending the string up a bit.
posted by kersplunk at 9:19 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

...the note in between...well, yes, that's the problem with the piano. Especially when playing blues/jazz when a lot of times you want to bend the third (in classical music it's either major or minor. With blues/jazz it's called the blue third and whereas you can bend it on the blues harp or the sax or the guitar or the voice, often upwards, you have to finesse it on the piano with the fingers and the pedal or just play both at once. This can also happen anywhere on the scale in jazz.)

Then, on solo piano, there is the problem of having to play or imply three parts (bass, chords and melody) but most of us have only two sets of fingers. There is the old-fashioned stride solution, which Monk sometimes used without making it sound corny like it does when I try it.

Thelonious Sphere Monk is sui generis, a demigod in my book. I'm still trying to figure out how to play some of his songs.
posted by kozad at 9:27 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I might add that the YouTube comments on TM videos are often obscurely hilarious


aspergers connected to aspergillus fungus. A scam by the gov. One disease named 1000 diseases. FUNGUS. Cancer is a curable fungus. Just sayin
posted by Mr. Yuck at 10:22 AM on October 8, 2013

When I'm not listening to Thelonious Monk to and from New York City, I'm riding in his car. How many people can say that?
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:38 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's pretty impressive if the government engineered an entire kingdom of biology as a scam.
posted by kiltedtaco at 10:54 AM on October 8, 2013

I think it was meant as a joke.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:16 AM on October 8, 2013

Yes, this is a great documentary. I watched it on a DVD from netflix originally, and liked it so much, I actually purchased it on Amazon. Even if you know all the music by heart (as most of us Monk fans do), it's interesting purely for being a document of its time - seeing the world as it was back then. We are so lucky to have such direct access to the past - something that's only been possible for about a century... think what it would be like to watch Mozart; well, I'm glad at least we have our modern equivalent musical genius so documented. It's crazy how recent this history is, and yet how far away it seems - at least to me, someone pushing into his 50's.
posted by VikingSword at 12:22 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hey- my father in law at the 2:00 mark!
posted by T10B at 6:15 PM on October 8, 2013

Mal Waldron once told me a story about Monk. Just before he died in 1982, Monk invited a bunch of musicians up to a rehearsal loft where he had a couple of pianos and drum kits and so on. He had a new composition he wanted to try out, with nine parts to it. A big symphonic thing. Everyone who was invited went...Mal, Steve Lacy, maybe Max Roach...I can't remember who was invited but they were all shocked to hear from Monk who had been off the scene for long before he died.

When they got to the loft Monk was dancing around really happy and he handed out the charts. Everyone sat down to have a look and no one could make heads or tails of it. Monk tried leading the ensemble through it but Mal Waldron described the piece as "unplayable" Finally Monk got so agitated that he sat down at the piano and played all nine parts together. Mal described it as incredible and intricate and really beautiful, but full of strange notes and time changes and stuff. No one had ever seen anything like it.

So they gave it a few more tries but Monk kicked them all out eventually and was a little sad about it, and that was the last time Mal Waldron ever saw him.
posted by salishsea at 8:34 PM on October 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

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