Friday, November 16, 2007

Steady diet of Monk

Playing right now: Nothing. Earlier I was listening to a new CD by a bassist named Alper Yilmaz. It's a little electric, with a lot of rhodes and alto and soprano saxes on the frontline, which makes for an interesting and unusual pairing.

I have distinct memories from my high school years about when I bought certain records. For instance, the day after Easter was always a big shopping day for me because we always had that day off from school. In 9th grade, I bought John Cale's Honi Soit; 10th grade, Soft Cell's The Art of Falling Apart and Echo & the Bunnymen's Porcupine and Dream Syndicate's Days of Wine and Roses. It gets a little fuzzy on the next 2 years. If I looked through my albums I could probably tell you. On a day that school was cancelled due to cold weather, I bought Arto Lindsay's first Ambitious Lovers album and Art Pepper's Smack Up.

And so on and so on.

Earlier this week, I pulled out Monk's Concert at Town Hall on Riverside with the big band. I think I bought that on Veteran's Day during 12th grade. I definitely remember that I had that Monday off and the night before, a band of kids that went to my high school had played a show at the Electric Banana. I was there and the show pissed me off because naturally I was jealous that it wasn't me up there. And also I thought they sucked. Me and a couple girls I knew split during the band's set and got pizza. I don't know how I wound up getting invited along because I wasn't part of their crew but I had a crush on at least one of them, so I was ecstatic to be invited.

So anyhow, I don't recall if that was Veteran's Day time or not, but we didn't have school the next day and I went and bought the Monk album at the Record Recycler. This was late '84 when Fantasy just started releasing OJCs, "Original Jazz Classics", that reissued all the great stuff that Riverside and Prestige put out in the '50s. Back in the pre-digital age, this was really the first chance to check out a lot of that stuff for a person like me who was just getting back into jazz. (A year later, Blue Note would come back to life too and start reissuing albums.) They were cheap too. I was reminded of this when recently buying a Coltrane OJC that still had the banner sticker on it with the $5.98 list price. (And the Recycler only charged $4.99!)

My Monk collection started right at that time and I chose so good ones to begin with. I had just bought Brilliant Corners which is probably one of his boldest albums. The writing on there was genius, plus he had both Sonny Rollins and the late alto player Ernie Henry on the frontline. Then I bought Town Hall which I still think is a great representation of his music. The extra horns really serve it well, bringing out the voicings of his chords. "Off Minor" has always been one of my favorite Monk songs and the version on this album is amazing. In the middle eight, the low brass really drives it along. No wonder I look back so fondly on that time. I had all that music to keep me company. Plus when I met my friend Steve Heineman at a party just a month or so later, I walked into his apartment and that album was playing. Man, did I think that was cool.

Funny, "Crepiscule with Nellie" is probably one of my absolute favorite Monk tunes but I didn't really dig it right away on that album. It doesn't have the romantic feel of some of the other versions of it.

I busted out that album a couple days ago and it still sounds as good as it did back then. I suppose it'll always be good music to usher in the fall.

No comments: