Why Thelonious Monk?

Never before has the music of a particular artist taught me more about myself. Maybe more importantly, that it is OK to be myself.

Two years ago, I began a "journey" studying the music of Thelonious Monk. I was talking with my good friend Steve Peplin, who was in the midst of an intense study of Monk's music himself. He was thinking of putting a group together to perform only Monk compositions. While preparing for the gig with Steve, I quickly realized I only knew a handful of Monk tunes - the ones that everyone knows/calls at jam sessions (Well You Needn't, Blue Monk, Straight, No Chaser, etc). I remember the gig vividly, and I remember trying to play "Think of One", having never played it before - maybe, having never even heard it before .

I remember having the feeling that the composition led me into different melodic and rhythmic directions. Directions I might not have otherwise chosen. I also remember feeling like whatever I decided to play, would fit - free, blues, fast, slow, spacious, angular. It intrigued me, and the adventure began. It led me to explore other artists who found inspiration in Monk's compositions such as: Steve Lacy, Barry Harris, Don Cherry, Alexander Von Schlippenbach, Bud Powell, Jason Moran, Sonny Rollins, Ethan Iverson (his writings on the topic of Monk are detailed, read more here > Do the Math), among many others. One of the things I started to do was analyze how others approached improvising over those difficult harmonies and forms.Read more