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  1. #1

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    Was considered a bebop musician and part of the bebop movement, played with bebop musicians, wrote bebop tunes, but never played an 8th note rhythmic, melodic bebop solo.


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  3. #2

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    Yeah Monk was big on playing melodies, not scales.

    Someone posted his list of Do's and Don'ts a while back.

  4. #3

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    Sometimes Monk sounds like he's never sat at a piano before, but he always sounds good.

  5. #4
    ^ He was accomplished and practiced, but he would jam things out according to his own ideas, instead of trying to play like a traditional soloist I think.

    Quote Originally Posted by JazzinNY
    Yeah Monk was big on playing melodies, not scales.

    Someone posted his list of Do's and Don'ts a while back.
    He played scales a lot, but usually as runs. I don't think he had practiced the Bud Powell style of playing to where he could do it.

  6. #5

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    Monk was 20 years ahead of bebop while he was hanging with the cats creating it.

    There has never been a more original jazz artist, nor one with a better mastery of what being rhythmically interesting can do.

  7. #6

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    I have never thought of Monk as Bebop. Am I mad?

  8. #7
    ^ Neither have I. I just noticed that some do consider him bebop. The tune I posted has a bebop head.

  9. #8

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    T.Monk was a jazz genius and always went his own way.
    He was a very conscious musician and the fact was he didn't play be-bop phrases.
    He probably had a different vision of playing be-bop.


  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by kris
    T.Monk was a jazz genius and always went his own way.
    He was a very conscious musician and the fact was he didn't play be-bop phrases.
    He probably had a different vision of playing be-bop.
    Bebop at the highest levels was very competitive. Jam sessions were cutting contests, solos were often frenetic, and a lot of the push was to be faster, cooler, and more “creative” than the rest. Heads were written to achieve a complexity that only the composer could master. This wasn’t a bop invention - it’s been there from baroque times and probably even crept into early chants. Liszt was notorious for doing the same thing.

    I don’t think Monk cared at all about any of that, so he wrote and played what moved him. His unorthodoxy was honest, and he expressed himself differently from most. During one concert I attended in ‘67 or so, he got up and walked around the piano for an entire solo to bass and drum “comping”, without playing a note. He also played the entire concert in his topcoat and hat. I’m sure these were statements, but for the life of me I have no idea what he was trying to say. Maybe he just wanted to stimulate thought.

  11. #10

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    Monk's technique was absolutely flawless to express his singular music vision and the musical world is a richer place for it. His sense of timing is so personal, something that those who have transcribed his notes fail to articulate. His roots are more connected to stride piano and Art Tatum than the Earl Fatha Hines lineage to Bud Powell. It would be interesting to hear recording snapshots of Monk from day one playing piano as he progressed to professional musician. Some musicians just can't help it, expressing anything other than their unique self.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by nevershouldhavesoldit
    Bebop at the highest levels was very competitive. Jam sessions were cutting contests, solos were often frenetic, and a lot of the push was to be faster, cooler, and more “creative” than the rest. Heads were written to achieve a complexity that only the composer could master. This wasn’t a bop invention - it’s been there from baroque times and probably even crept into early chants. Liszt was notorious for doing the same thing.

    I don’t think Monk cared at all about any of that, so he wrote and played what moved him. His unorthodoxy was honest, and he expressed himself differently from most. During one concert I attended in ‘67 or so, he got up and walked around the piano for an entire solo to bass and drum “comping”, without playing a note. He also played the entire concert in his topcoat and hat. I’m sure these were statements, but for the life of me I have no idea what he was trying to say. Maybe he just wanted to stimulate thought.
    Perhaps he knew that writing beautiful jazz compositions was about more than just playing quick phrases.
    I do not know.
    Nobody can tell what was going on in Monk's head back then.

  13. #12

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    Yeah, Monk also wrote a whole bunch of original music while everybody else was composing busier heads to GASB tunes.

    Monk was an ORIGINAL.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by bako
    Monk's technique was absolutely flawless to express his singular music vision and the musical world is a richer place for it. His sense of timing is so personal, something that those who have transcribed his notes fail to articulate. His roots are more connected to stride piano and Art Tatum than the Earl Fatha Hines lineage to Bud Powell. It would be interesting to hear recording snapshots of Monk from day one playing piano as he progressed to professional musician. Some musicians just can't help it, expressing anything other than their unique self.
    If you listen to Monk’s solo piano recordings (he did quite a few of them), you can often hear him playing stride piano style, it must have been a big influence for him.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop
    If you listen to Monk’s solo piano recordings (he did quite a few of them), you can often hear him playing stride piano style, it must have been a big influence for him.
    Here he plays a standard with a stride left hand, but it's 100% Monk. I vote a genius can do whatever they want to.


  16. #15
    ^ I love that clip.

    Quote Originally Posted by nevershouldhavesoldit
    I don’t think Monk cared at all about any of that, so he wrote and played what moved him. His unorthodoxy was honest, and he expressed himself differently from most. During one concert I attended in ‘67 or so, he got up and walked around the piano for an entire solo to bass and drum “comping”, without playing a note. He also played the entire concert in his topcoat and hat. I’m sure these were statements, but for the life of me I have no idea what he was trying to say. Maybe he just wanted to stimulate thought.
    Very cool that you saw him! I think he liked the context of the tune and jazz. So if he wasn't playing and was walking around in his head, it was still profound to him. I think he'd use drugs a lot too, so that amplified that. My take on it anyway.

  17. #16
    And people, don't get all riled up thinking I'm criticizing him. It's just a discussion. He's my favorite jazz musician, biggest influence, and jazz musician that I've listened to the most.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Yeah, Monk also wrote a whole bunch of original music while everybody else was composing busier heads to GASB tunes.

    Monk was an ORIGINAL.
    He was also a fine technical pianist, despite common belief to the contrary. I've always been fascinated by the popular misconceptions about the perceived lack of basic skills among avant garde artists and performers, and I've come across some serious academic works on the subject. There's a long, detailed, and excellent 39 page analysis of Monk's playing by Benjamin Given in the 2009 Journal of Musicology (vol 26, #3, pp 404-442) that's based on analysis of films of his concerts. I can't find it anywhere on the web except through JSTOR, which requires a subscription and will neither let me download the file nor give me a link with which nonsubscribers can access the article. Here's the abstract:

    "The jazz pianist Thelonious Monk's highly idiosyncratic instrumental technique has long been a topic of controversy. Examination of competing views sheds light on the circumstances under which Monk's detractors have accused him of incompetence, whereas his devotees have generally argued either that he was proficient in a conventional sense or that his pianistic imperfections were irrelevant to his music's intellectual content. New perspectives on Monk's pianism may be sought through the analysis of concert films that document his playing in close detail. The films indicate that sometimes Monk intentionally created technical hurdles for himself in order to imbue his playing with a degree of expressive tension."

    Monk's first recorded work was with Coleman Hawkins (1944-46), and Hawk didn't really give him much room to solo. But even in those few recordings, his approach was clear and he simply didn't sound like other pianists. The one exception to this is his approach to intros, endings, and arpeggiation - in these areas, he demonstrated both fine technique and a more traditional approach that I suspect he adopted mostly to keep his chair. Monk's intro on this 1944 cut by Hawkins' quartet has just enough Monkness to make it his - you can almost hear the half tones he'd be adding if it were his gig. And when you listen to his solo (1:04 to 1:22), you can hear the real Monk straining to be free:


    His intro on the next track is traditional but with just a bit of the future Monk. His comping on this track is sensitive, thoughtful, and straightforward. And his arpeggiated ending run is as traditional as it gets:


    Now we fast forward to 1947, the year Monk emerged as a leader and really began to let his freak flag fly. The contrast with his playing for Hawkins is dramatic. And even though he wasn't spinning long, complex lines, his solo (starting at 2:06) is neither simple nor technically weak:


  19. #18

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    This deserves repeating, as it is perfect:


    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont
    Monk was 20 years ahead of bebop while he was hanging with the cats creating it.

    There has never been a more original jazz artist, nor one with a better mastery of what being rhythmically interesting can do.
    Many thanks, Mr. B, for once again going straight to the heart of the matter.

  20. #19

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    Monk created Bebop harmony and was none too impressed with Bird and Diz, saying they took what he created and were always asking him questions. I’ll paraphrase until I can find the exact quote, “Bird and Diz never did anything for me.” He dug the hell out of Charlie Christian though.

  21. #20

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    Apparently he missed the memo saying that we should all sound alike?

  22. #21
    I think he had the most innovative and unique approach to harmony in all of jazz. His tunes are awesome, great composer. Interesting melodies too. A song approach, following the progression of the melody, but with his spiky embellishments. Just never went in for the 8th note Bud Powell right hand bebop approach.

  23. #22

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    He was Bud’s mentor. Bud took what Monk gave him and ran with it. I really love the way Bud played Monk tunes, especially on that later recording he did in France in the 60s. His version of Off Minor is spectacular.

  24. #23

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    For me, Monk's pianism is an extension of Duke Ellington's. Ellington also wasn't a burner. But he brought a composer's mentality to the instrument, he knew all the little tricks, he knew how to make a piano just sound good.

    And like Ellington, I think Monk is actually underrated as a player. Too much of his stuff is written off as amateurism or intentional naivete. But to my ears, his playing has so many virtues. His harmonic palette was incredibly sophisticated (and probably ripe to be explored after so many guys went down the Bill Evans rabbit hole). He was extremely aware of the overtones his playing was producing and the piano as a physical instrument -- much of his technique that seems weird I think is the result of him trying to play the piano with enough force to get the overtones really resonating. And his rhythmic playing was so precise -- maybe the best at that since Louis Armstrong.

  25. #24

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    What’s the best (most representative) Monk album?

  26. #25
    ^ They're all good lol. I recognize 3 distinct sounds. His early stuff like genius of modern music. His mid and late combo stuff. And his solo stuff. I really like the album Monk plays Duke.

    Quote Originally Posted by dasein
    For me, Monk's pianism is an extension of Duke Ellington's. Ellington also wasn't a burner. But he brought a composer's mentality to the instrument, he knew all the little tricks, he knew how to make a piano just sound good.

    And like Ellington, I think Monk is actually underrated as a player. Too much of his stuff is written off as amateurism or intentional naivete. But to my ears, his playing has so many virtues. His harmonic palette was incredibly sophisticated (and probably ripe to be explored after so many guys went down the Bill Evans rabbit hole). He was extremely aware of the overtones his playing was producing and the piano as a physical instrument -- much of his technique that seems weird I think is the result of him trying to play the piano with enough force to get the overtones really resonating. And his rhythmic playing was so precise -- maybe the best at that since Louis Armstrong.
    Monk was kind of a disciple of Duke. Good explanation.