Hey, it’s also the 90th birthday of Thelonius Monk, one of my favourite musicians for sheer character, originality, electricity and overall brilliance. I noted the day not because I have committed to memory the birthdays of my favourite musicians (I barely remember mine each year) but because there was a nice NPR piece on him just now. Have a listen if you like (here).
I’m going to celebrate with a treat. Wall to wall Monk on my iTunes for the next couple of hours while I work, and here on the blog, two of my favourite videos of Monk in action playing the wonderful “Blue Monk”. The first one (look who’s watching on while he plays!) is shorter, sparser, and is sort of cooler (in a way I can’t define – his movements have a lot to do with it) while the second one is longer, denser, (it has other soloists) but has more in the way of fascinating harmonies popping out from under his fingers, along with more of his unusual and highly effective percussive playing style. Note by the way that the first is from the amazing 1957 video/film recording “The Sound of Jazz” that has so many musical giants playing and walking around the studio that it’s almost overwhelming. Get it if you want a simply sublime musical experience. (You can find clips on YouTube, like this one of Billie Holiday (surrounded by other greats on sax, trumpet, trombone…), which brings me to tears of both joy and sadness every time.)
Ok… the Monk recordings follow. Enjoy… Watch the feet! I love the feet!