This is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thelonious Monk. I’ve never given it much thought, but if you’re astrologically inclined it makes sense that he was a Libra. From the beginning, some fellow musicians and close listeners recognized Monk’s unique abilities and piquant musicality. Those less receptive, or unwilling to hear out of the mainstream jazz boxes of the late 1930s and early forties, were amused or puzzled by Monk’s way with the piano. It took years for many to embrace the peculiarities that his genius and personality transmuted into one of music’s most endearing personal styles. There are—thank goodness—hundreds of recorded examples of his unclassifiable artistry, and dozens of videos.
At the Berliner Jazztage in 1969, Monk played a masterly unaccompanied set, then was joined by the stride pianist Joe Turner, bassist Hans Rettenbacher and drummer Stu Martin. As if that weren’t enough of a treat, the video includes a bonus: Sarah Vaughan beautifully intoning a Beatles song that was at the top of pop charts in the 1960s. She follows the Monk segment, accompanied by Johnny Veth, piano; Gus Mancuso, bass; and Eddy Puci, drums.
May our half-hour visit with Monk and friends in Berlin get your weekend off to a fine start.