Friday, October 16, 2009

Round about midnight

Point of personal privilege.

Admittedly this blog has been a little light on the jazz and heavy on the jacked up. Well, its time we corrected that imbalance.

The New York Times has a rather glowing review of a new book about Thelonious Monk. Apparently the family assisted the author, Robin D. G. Kelley, in collecting the necessary material to get the story straight (no chaser?).

Frequently, we hear the term genius or musical genius bandied about with far too little regard for reality. But Monk was a musical genius in the truest sense of the word. He had the signs, childhood precociousness, eccentric and erratic behavior (both personally and musically), mental health instability, encyclopedic knowledge of his craft and a deep and reverential respect of his internationally acknowledged so called peers. Yet, for much of his life he was not treated as a genius. We cannot change the past but we certainly can revere him now.

There also was another feature of note regarding a benefit to purchase a headstone for the grave of one of Monk's idols James P. Johnson.

Both Monk and Johnson were practitioners of what is commonly referred to as stride piano. Now the the definition of stride piano is somewhat complex, technical and a bit nuanced. But basically a stride pianist is one who walks up to a piano and causes most other pianist to get the hell up and as far away as possible lest they become embarrassed by what is about to happen.

As with many people, it took me a very long time to get Monk. He was one strange cat (which is what kept me on the case). But once I learned he was the composer of the jazz classic Round Midnight, it all fell into place and made sense. Of course you could read the book to learn everything you need to know about Monk or you can just watch the first 30 seconds of this video.

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