The Bay area jazz scene
December 19, 2008 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Plays Monk Live at Intersection for the Arts. A terrific video and audio performance of Plays Monk recorded by BayTaper, an excellent one man multimedia operation recording the San Francisco area jazz & creative music scene. (previously)
posted by semmi (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Even after hearing a few tracks, I tend to believe that a clarinet, bass and drums trio can't possibly do any justice to Monk tunes, although I can appreciate their dedication to this great composer-pianist. There is nothing there (like guitar or piano) to enable an average listener to hear anything harmonically, without which those unfamiliar with Thelonious' way of working musically could be easily confused. (Sure, "Straight No Chaser" with its two-chord "A" section and bridge with half-step movement --or "Blue Monk" would be fine, because the listener could still "get it", just from the blues-based structure, but that's different.)

A large and very integral part of Monk's brilliance and process was how he placed his harmonies, how he divided his structures, figures and riffs rhythmically (they could seem random and disjointed, but they were certainly not, as Wynton Maralsis and many others have pointed out). But as an example for knowlegeable jazzers or listeners who know Monk's music: try to imagine "Raise Four", or even "Round Midnight" without a harmonic base behind it!

I'd bet there'll be at least one Mefite here who will perhaps refute this by reminding me of the various recordings -- and concert footage available where Charlie Rouse is blowing a fine tenor solo (as bass and drums back him), while Monk does his mischevious little "dance" away from the piano -- sometimes even for several choruses. I would point out that by then, Monk has already "established" the tune, probably soloed already too. Besides, Rouse was with Monk for a while, and knew his stuff through and through.

These comments (regarding the lack of a chordal instrument) could, ostensibly, be applied to other fine jazz composers as well (Wayne Shorter, Benny Carter and Bill Evans come to mind) and Plays Monk do sound like creative and involved players, so there's at least that. But hearing them perform these great tunes by one of jazz's most noted composers sounds somewhat random and tedious to me and despite maybe a "B+" for effort, it just doesn't lay right.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 2:57 PM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Glad you said it, Seekerofsplendor. As a piano player, I'm biased. Sometimes that open, stripped down sound is nice, and I can understand a horn player wanting to try it. But a little goes a long way. My father, who loved jazz, would have said "they're good, but it's too cerebral".

Slight change of subject - there's tons of great music out there, but where is the truly novel and innovative, the revolutionary? This sounds pretty advanced, but then you realize Monk died in 1982!
posted by AppleSeed at 5:27 AM on December 20, 2008

I agree with Seekerofsplendor—this is pleasant, but to me it doesn't feel like Monk.

there's tons of great music out there, but where is the truly novel and innovative, the revolutionary?

posted by languagehat at 5:40 AM on December 20, 2008

"Straight, No Chaser" is a blues, Seekerofsplendor. You meant "Well You Needn't".

Metafilter: "somewhat random and tedious"
(see also jazz fans)
posted by lothar at 9:29 AM on December 20, 2008

lothar, you're right. I've played them so much, the titles become sort of interchangeable at times. At least it still makes my point. Thanks for reminding me.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:54 AM on December 20, 2008

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