Monk’s Dream, The Thelonious Monk Quartet

My dad died today.

He was shot 16 years ago, and yet survived this long, even after having been rendered triplegic and having lost his legs.

Maybe it’s my background in the psychological sciences, maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always been curious about music and its relationship to trauma and hardship, particularly its ability to soothe.

I’ve always been interested in what forms of art, music or not, were particularly palliative in easing pain. And maybe semi-consciously, what forms of art we reach for, if any, when we’re at our lowest.

For whatever reason, I wanted to hear two albums today, and the Thelonious Monk Quartet’s Monk’s Dream was one of them. (I also wanted to play tenor with a Brilhart Ebolin mouthpiece and a #5 Fibracell reed, but I’m not sure how relevant that is.)


“Body and Soul,” where Monks’ version pretty much dismisses the notion of an “original” melody as surely as Hawkins’ did….

The squawk at 2:05 of “Bright Mississippi” always makes me laugh: perfectly representative of jazz’, and particularly Monk’s, views of everything, let alone music or art….

“Blues Five Spot” and its dainty-steppin,’ we-have-all-the-time-in-the-world-to-go-nowhere-and-enjoy-ourselves ‘tude….

“Blue Bolivar Blues”: at 2:10 the graceful yet plodding (how is that possible) solo over concert B sounds like the background tune of a cartoon where one anthropomorphic animal is defying the laws of gravity, and bouncing, and bouncing, and bouncing….

All the remaining tracks follow suite, from “Bye-ya” to “Sweet and Lovely”… it’s the same wonderful, scary-at-the-time-it-was-released world of Monk and Company….

[And it should be annoying, but I do still love the fact that these tunes are so fucking hard to solo over– or, like Trane said, are like stepping into an open elevator shaft.]

Thelonious Sphere Monk, his sense of composition, and his band’s disregard for traditional notions of form, are the sonic version of complete freedom I hope dad has now.

I hope he has his legs back and he’s dancing, or running, or whatever the fuck he wants, with them. I hope his spirit soars in realms unbounded by Earthly logic.

Like Monk’s tunes.

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