“It has been well documented,” Homzy wrote a group of fellow jazz researchers yesterday, “that Monk was inspired by Mary Lou William’s ‘Walkin’ And Swingin’’ (‘Rhythm-a-ning’) and John Kirby’s ‘Pastel Blue’ (‘Blue Monk’). This morning, I discovered that Bob Zurke’s performance of ‘Tea For Two’, with the Bob Crosby Band in 1938, is the genesis of Monk’s still-unique version of the same tune. Recorded in New York, March 10, 1938 for Decca. Zurke’s spectacular reharmonization begins at 2:39.”
Notes: (1) Eddie Miller has the lovely tenor saxophone solo in the Zurke/Crosby version. Cannonball Adderley called Miller “The first of the cool tenors.” (2) At the end of the Zurke/Crosby version, and before the Monk, Adrian Gregg, the man who restored the sound of the Decca 78rpm disc, pops up to deliver a brief plug—DR.
Monk’s version is from his 1963 Criss Cross album.
Bob Zurke (1912-1944) was a gifted pianist who replaced Joe Sullivan in Bob Crosby’s band in 1937. He and Crosby had a hit record with their cover of Meade Lux Lewis’s “Honky Tonk Train Blues.” After he left Crosby, Zurke formed his own big band in 1940. He recorded, among other things, a new version of “Tea for Two,” of which Andrew Homzy says, “At 2:17, there begins an even more extensive, i.e. full chorus, reharmonization. Monk could have heard this version, as it was issued on Victor & was probably widely distributed.” Zurke’s 1940 “Tea for Two” is on this album, along with all of his other RCA Victors.
Zurke’s big band, Bob Zurke and his Delta Rhythm Boys, didn’t last long, largely because of the leader’s drinking and unreliability. After settling in Los Angeles, he spent his final few years playing solo piano at the Hangover Club. He collapsed there in early 1944 and died shortly after of pneumonia with complications. He had just turned 32.