Friday, May 26, 2006

the minimalism of thelonious monk #1: oh, carolina

Carolina Moon (Joe Burke/Benny Davis, 1929) is a Monk pop cover I'd never heard mentioned until it jumped out and grabbed me this week-end as I listened to my unmarked CD-R copy of the Complete Blue Note Recordings. I was compelled to go online to find out what Disc 3, Track 7 was.

It's an unusual and prescient reading. The cymbal beat during the head is abstract, at a remove from the bass's tempo. It reminds me of Roy Haynes on Andrew Hill's "Wailing Wail." Over this come fragments (voiced by two saxophones and trumpet) that are alternately melodic and dissonant/abstract. During the A sections, these fragments are separated by startlingly long rests. When the solos start, the rhythm settles into a conventional mid-tempo groove and the statements are linear and melodic (Kenny Dorham, Sahib Shihab sound pretty old-fashioned for the early 50s, despite the altoist ending his solo with a Charlie Parker quote).

I haven't heard a pop version of "Carolina Moon," but reading its lyrics, it's much easier to imagine the solos' relationship to the original song than it is the head's. The usual approach is thus turned inside out: the solos set the basis for what the head's extrapolations. This holistic approach, the way in which solos are integrated with the composition, reminds me of Ben Allison.