by T. S. Monk
When it comes to explaining my ‘Thelonious Monk Greatest Hits’ playlist, my job is inescapably threefold. I wear 3 hats.
Number one, I am his son. Number two, I had the extraordinary privilege of performing with him. And number three, I am a fan - like millions of others.
As his son, I tend to love everything he composed because I grew up listening to all the music, starting in my mom’s tummy.
Instantly, I became familiar with the music, along with my sister, “Boo Boo” Barbara Monk. The entire Monk family, both nuclear and extended, became indoctrinated with the music. As a drummer and fellow musician, performing with Monk and so many others, playing Monk’s music was and still is an absolute joy. Why? Because every tune is swinging. And all the tunes are intellectually challenging. They are instructive, both melodically and harmonically, and they are enlightening from a spiritual standpoint.
Now from a fan’s perspective, so many of Thelonious Monk’s tunes have become what is called “standard repertoire”. Every composition is a masterpiece, and picking the one you like the most actually rotates and changes from day to day, and sometimes favorites shift moment to moment. I think this is a true conundrum for all of Monk’s fans.
Thelonious Monk is now the second most recorded composer in the history of jazz and his composition, “Round Midnight”, is the most recorded song in jazz history. He is second only to Duke Ellington, one of his mentors. The reason? Genius. Pure genius. “Monk’s Dream” is my personal favorite here. Especially his classic quartet recording on “It’s Monk’s Time” with Charlie Rouse, Frankie Dunlop, and Larry Gales.
Thelonious Monk’s piano playing is still the most unique in all of jazz. Impossible to copy. Uncompromising, and incomparable. Thelonious Monk may be the most unique instrumentalist in the history of “western music” period. So give a listen, and enjoy The Greatest.