Not that the man is celebrating given that he’s been on the other side now for over 37 years. But if Thelonious Monk was still among the living he’d be celebrating a century on this earth. Even though he only lived to be 64-years old, the man blazed a musical trail of legends. His work was unlike anyone before or after. He played like an alien interpreting the wonky rhythms of ragtime. His songs were like a Lemonhead in that they were tart on first taste, but as you let those tunes melt down there was a hidden sweetness you couldn’t deny. I couldn’t deny it, anyways.
Thelonious Monk was the first jazz artist I ever got into. I bought Monk’s Dream on a whim when I was 21. I think I’d read an interview with Flea where he name dropped the man so I figured if Flea dug him maybe I would too? Turns out Flea has great taste as Monk’s Dream became an obsession of mine. It was an obsession that has lasted to this day. I’ve collected countless Monk albums, with Straight, No Chaser, Underground, Solo Monk, Monk, and Criss Cross as favorites. There’s a double LP I found with Thelonious and John Coltrane that’s pretty stunning, too. And the Clint Eastwood-produced doc Straight, No Chaser is a favorite as well. In that doc filled with tons of wonderful archival footage you see the strange and beautiful in him. He just wasn’t on the same plane as the rest of us. He didn’t just think and write outside of the box, he thought and wrote outside of our universe. He was a true original that will never be duplicated, matched, or remotely replaced.
So on this day, October 11, 2017, let us celebrate Thelonius Sphere Monk. One of the coolest far out cats to ever sit at the ivories.