Friday, October 10, 2014

Happy birthday, Mr. Monk.

Thelonious Sphere Monk, the great American composer and jazz pianist, would have been 97 years old today. He was born on 10 October 1917. He died on 17 February 1982.

I would like to play a beautiful tune I composed not so long ago, entitled Pannonica. It was named after this beautiful lady here. I think her father gave her that name, after a butterfly that he tried to catch. I don't think he caught the butterfly.

Monk's performance, here, of Pannonica —named for Kathleen Annie Pannonica de Koenigswarter (Rothschild), an English-born patron of late 1940s and 1950s American bebop jazz ('Nica' for her friends)— displays his compositional ethos and keyboard virtuosity distilled to its essence. Utilizing null time, rhythmic surprise, dissonant harmonies, 'wrong notes,' and then seemingly coaxing tones from between a piano's keys, he transformed his deceptively simple melodies into miniature gems of severe beauty.

Along with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and a handful of other players, he developed the style of jazz that came to be known as bebop. Monk's compositions, among them "Round Midnight," were the canvasses upon which these legendary soloists expressed their musical ideas. In 1947, Monk made his first recordings as a leader for Blue Note. These albums are some of the earliest documents of his unique compositional and improvisational style, both of which employed unusual repetition of phrases, an offbeat use of space, and joyfully dissonant sounds.
Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

Happy birthday, Mr. Monk, wherever you are!

Video from the documentary, "Thelonius Monk: Straight, No Chaser."

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