May 29, 2007

Monk + Coltrane = My Brain Melting...

by Chris Randall

Okay, I heard about this new "Thelonious Monk Quartet w/ John Coltrane Live At Carnegie Hall" album a few months ago, but I've been putting off buying it. It took me a _long_ time to really get Monk, but now his angular piano playing is so good to me that I almost can't stand it. That descending run that starts out "Ruby, My Dear" just primes the pump, and it's basically all over when he plays the ascending chord progression in to the second half of the first chorus. So basically I'm just done for about 19 seconds in to that track. And John Coltrane, I mean, fuck. "My Favorite Things" is probably my single most favorite piece of music. I know it's clich?, but fuck it. That shit's good. That's how it became popular, right?

Anyways, I've been putting off buying this album because I was afraid my brain would melt when I listened to it. The CD is a couple years old, of a recently unearthed tape in the Library Of Congress. The shows which it documents are, like, Fuuuuuuuck. Have a close look at the poster above, and see what $2.00 could have got you in to in 1957.

But anyways, all I have to say is this: dear Baby Jesus, this record is fucking good.



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May.30.2007 @ 10:16 AM
Good point Penzoil. Sun Ra's oeuvre was vast, from quite Monk-like solo pianism to nearly trad big band to (still) avant big band to really strange electro-acoustic stuff, to collaborations with John Cage, and more. I was around him for a few days not long before he passed - the entire Arkestra came to the New England Conservatory for a residency while I was doing composition undergrad. Sun was in the same withdrawn, zombie-like condition that Monk was in at the end too - odd. Monk was truly great, and I'm glad that people not trained in jazz are still listening to him and getting their brains melted...but it saddens me a bit that we're talking about 50 year old music. There has been quite a bit of brain-melting jazz made in the intervening years (more than half the lifespan of the jazz art to date), and yet so many people call themselves aficionados whose playlist extends no farther than 1960. I'm not pointing a finger at CR, since I don't know the extent of his (seemingly prolific) listening...and I certainly don't want to pick any fights on the subject. I moved on from deeply caring about it, at severe personal cost, almost a decade ago.

May.30.2007 @ 12:06 PM
I disagree, but no "trouble". I would guess there are few that have listened to all 150(?) recordings. The selection i have heard surely don't all sound the same to me. There are several distinct periods to the man's work and usually (for me) one or two works that represent that change/progress nicely. Truth be told the only one i listen to anymore is Jazz In Silhouette.

Monk is second to none and the Riverside box is a prized possession.

Forget not Bud Powell and Art Tatum and i think Nina Simone's piano playing is underrated in the extreme.


May.30.2007 @ 12:22 PM
Chris Randall
"i think Nina Simone's piano playing is underrated in the extreme."

Amen to that. Never mind "Sinner Man," which is the obvious ringer. She was quite experimental for the time, and mixed all genres. I do find her "Porgy & Bess" type stuff to be somewhat tedious, but all is forgiven with "Mississippi Goddamn," et al.

And rest assured, moyashi, that I like a lot of modern jazz, and two of my all-time favorite records (from xmarsx, and a short-lived Chicago band called Jive Council) are both less than a decade old. And NRG Ensemble, and Ken Vandermark, and Elliot Sharp w/ Carbon, and I like plenty of shit. Rest assured. I've been trying to get in to Monk for ever. It's one of those things where you _know_ it's good, but it doesn't _feel_ good, right? Just in the last 6 months has his shit finally clicked for me. And now it's like crack; I just can't get enough.



May.30.2007 @ 2:56 PM
penzoil washington
you need the "straight no chaser" dvd, CR, it's great.

thanks, moyashi for the pertinent remarks. the music is extremely varied, indeed, and all of it, incidentally, features one of the best tenor men ever, John Gilmore, whom Coltrane cited as a major infuence, and a lot of other greats over the years.


May.30.2007 @ 5:52 PM
If you've never listened to "Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy", well, you just haven't heard Sun Ra.

May.31.2007 @ 9:23 AM
Well, reading these comments, I feel like an outsider. I don't particularly like jazz (that is, I don't like it at all, sounds just like random jamming of whatever scales comes to your mind), unless it's played by Dillinger Escape Plan or The End, et al. However, I'm not mocking Jazz or finding fights here, I'm actually looking for tips.

Say you had a friend, who listened mostly to electronic music, industrial and some pretty brutal metal - how you would introduce Jazz to him? Because, I want to like Jazz, but I have no fucking clue where to start. Something with a hook to grab on? 'Cos all that (probably great) improvisational meandering gives me nothing to grab on to and let the carpet unravel.

Maybe I'm hopeless when it comes to Jazz, but I'd like to give it a shot.


May.31.2007 @ 9:41 AM
Have you checked out the Riverside box set? It's everything Monk recorded for Riverside from 1955 to 1960, including the covers albums, "Himself," "Brilliant Corners," the "Town Hall" concert, "Monk's Music," some Five spot dates, and more. 15 CDs. That was a Christmas present to myself one year. Regrettably, contractual problems meant that the Monk/Coltrane combination didn't get recorded much during this period, so it's great that the recently released concert recording surfaced. But the non-Coltrane bands were great, too.

May.31.2007 @ 10:26 AM
"i think Nina Simone's piano playing is underrated in the extreme"

I was lucky enough to see her perform a year or so before she died. What was truly incredible was the way she played the crowd. We were just another instrument in her repertoire. The performance of "Mississippi Goddamn" just blew me away.


May.31.2007 @ 11:21 AM
straechav: Get Charles Mingus's "Mingus Ah Um". You might find it's what you're looking for. Cannonball Adderly's "Mercy Mercy Mercy! Live at 'The Club' " is another one you might like (check out the allmusic entry for its funny backstory). They're records with excitement and passion in them, and there's never a moment that feels like meandering. I know what you mean, I have little tolerance for jazz that feels like meandering.

May.31.2007 @ 1:23 PM
Chris Randall
Straechav, I'm actually with you there. I've only recently come around to jazz as a genre, where I can find many records palatable. There are a few records I've liked since I was a teenager: Herbie Hancock "Headhunters' and Gene Harris Trio "Plus One" w/ Stanley Turrentine come to mind. "Headhunters" has actually been one of my favorite records since I was about 9, which is not too long after it originally came out. "Chameleon" was on a mix tape some guy left at our house after a party, and for some reason it grabbed me. That song has probably done more to inform my musical existence than any other.

But those are rare instances. The main reason I came around to jazz was due to my friend Mars Williams. He had played on a couple Ministry records, so when I needed a sax player for my own stuff, he was the only person I knew of in Chicago that did that sort of shit. He had (and has) a lot of different projects going on in Chicago, and I was introduced to some pretty heavy-duty music that way. The sax player that joined my band for touring, Nate Lepine, also got me hooked on some interesting shit.

All this by way of saying that it is incredibly difficult to say "I want to start listening to jazz; where to go?" because the genre in general is ludicrously broad; the fact that NRG Ensemble and Kenny G can both be put in that section in the record store is the same as saying that Ministry and Air Supply can both be found in the "Rock" section. What is more likely is that you'll accidentally hear a song that speaks to you and branch out from there. So don't sweat it; life is too short to force yourself to like something if you don't.



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