In this issue of L&F Notes, our Creative Director Glenn Webb gets off his bike, puts down his camera, (in no particular order) and shares a few thoughts on one of his everyday musical inspirations, Thelonious Monk:
On Oct 10, 1917, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century was born. The late pianist wrote 70 songs during his life, many of which are standards today. “He can’t play. He has two left hands,” was how one New York record store owner responded to Monk’s piano playing. Blue Note, however, hailed him as a genius and positioned him in the media as a mysterious maverick. Eventually leading to the most recorded jazz composition of all time, "'Round Midnight.”
Monk had an inability to do things anyway but his way. His feeling was not to add to chords but rather strip them down, creating dissonance. In a lot of his music you hear two-note chords, he might take the third and the fifth out of a major seventh chord and play just the root and major seven. It sounds strange to some, but that's Monk in sound and person.
I remember my first experience hearing Monks music. 2 am, sweat, smoke, and mold in a Harlem basement and no one was going anywhere. It was a cover band that was on. I didn't have a phone on me to write down the name of the artist who wrote the music, but a napkin given to me by the barman fueled my obsession with one of the greatest Jazz musicians of all time.
Once Monk played 60 consecutive games of ping pong with John Coltrane, winning 59 of them. Coltrane considered Monk his mentor and as such just kept playing because that’s what Thelonious wanted to do.
Thelonious' son, T.S Monk shared this tidbit about his dad that just says it all:
“People knew he played ping pong, but he was even better at pool. He would take me to the pool hall and just run the table. Even though I was a kid, he’d never let me win.”