Monday, December 26, 2011

Monk: The Melody Never Stops



Since I have referenced Thelonious Monk's music frequently in my blog, I thought it would be appropriate to do a post focusing on him. 

Monk's Melodies
Thelonious Monk is one of the best examples of a musician who erases the barrier between playing a melody and soloing.  If you listen to the "Evidence" above (sorry), you can hear the rhythmically angular melody running through everything that the band is playing.  This is what I mean when I talk about combining the two songs of jazz, it is as if the melody never stops.  Monk's melodies sound like his solos, and his solos sound like his melodies; they are always spontaneous, fresh, exciting, and so so so catchy!  

The Drummer's Perspective
Monk's melodies (like "Evidence") are some of the only ones that you can recognize just from clapping their rhythm.  Perhaps in part because of how catchy and rhythmically vital Monk's melodies are, drummers who play with him seemed compelled to interact with these melodies in really vivid ways.   You can see how beautifully Frankie Dunlop plays the melody on the head of "Evidence" in the video above.  Another one of my favorite examples of this is Roy Haynes solo on "In Walked Bud" which I posted about some time ago.  On almost any of Monk's recordings you will hear this type of interaction between the drummer and the melody, and if you have had the pleasure of playing any of Monk's music, you will feel the pull of the melody as well. 

Here is a clip of me playing a great arrangement of "Brake's Sake" by my good friend Caleb Curtis.