Saturday, June 03, 2006

the minimalism of thelonious monk #2: are you making fun of me?

"Rhythm-a-ning," "Thelonious In Action," Thelonious Monk Quartet:
After Johnny Griffin's long, athletic and honking solo, Monk emerges from near-silent accompaniment to play a brief solo that seems to mock the conceptions underlying Griffin's: a constant flow of always-renewed ideas, unrelenting energy. I can't help but feel that he's making fun of Griffin. Well, maybe not, but there's a vertiginous drop in the transition from aggressive virtuosity to unobtrusive minimalism.

I wonder if "Thelonious In Action" presents the concert as it happened. On the opener, "Light Blue," Griffin treads lightly on the song's chords, but on the next track, "Coming On The Hudson," he digs more forcefully into the composition's odd contours. Then, on "Rhythm-a-ning" the gulf between Monk's sparse, ringing chords and Griffin's lines above is pretty huge.

Monk seems to loosen up over the course of the album. Initially his solos are very focussed on thematic manipulation, but by the last tracks (and the end of the night?) he's playing with more abandon. On the closing "In Walked Bud," he starts out by sticking close to the melody, but makes an abrupt 90-degree left turn on (or should I say off?) the bridge.

Johnny Griffin, a great player (he may not have generated religious fervour, but is certainly a minor, Hank Mobley-sized god) who's rarely brought up in conversation, is still alive and kicking in France.

From that last interview (translation mine):
On Holland, where he lived in for a time, but left

Essentially because of the weather. It's horrible... Five months without sun. Water everywhere, mud, grey people.

On first seeing Sun Ra, around 1955:
I knew all the musicians, apart from Sun Ra... Sun Ra arrived, played. I burst out laughing. It was too funny. That wasn't much appreciated, of course... I asked [John Gilmore] "What are you doing with these idiots?" I've since become friends with Sun Ra, but I still laugh. And he knows that. It's not an orchestra, it's a church.

On the Chicago scene:
Chicago was first of all a blues town. Most of the time, in the clubs, there was a blues singer we had to accompany, and a shake dancer: a beautiful young woman who wiggled like a belly dancer.

On Lionel Hampton as boss:
I made more money working saturday nights at the Persian Pershing Ballroom than a week with Hampton. Dinah Washington was with us: she earned the same as I did. It was ridiculous. Hampton never paid anybody!

On neo-boppers (circa 1992):
Fantastic. They abandoned free jazz and the avant-garde to come back to music.