Listen to more demotracks from this album HERE
The career of Thelonius Sphere Monk (1917-1982) is characterised by long periods of joblessness, bipolar episodes, incarceration, health crises, and other tragic and difficult moments. The best of his music reflects these currents. His life story is that of an artist struggling to make it big without compromising his musical vision. In his music, American history can be traced. He was very aware of his family’s history as slaves and was by all accounts a devoted father and husband. The story of a youngster eavesdropping on his sister Marion’s piano lessons, is touching. His doting mother scrubbed floors to pay for his piano lessons and by 14 he was playing at parties in Harlem. He soon started competing in “Amateur Night” competitions at the Apollo Theater, but won so often that he was eventually barred from the show. His is also a story of romance, from Monk’s initial heartbreaks to his life-long commitment to his muse, the extraordinary Nellie Monk.
And you have to love a man who had a picture of Billy Holiday tacked to the ceiling above his bed.
“The only cats worth anything are the cats who take chances” – Thelonius Monk
Monk’s lifework of 57 compositions is a diabolical and witty self-portrait, a string of stark snapshots of his life in New York. Changing meters, unique harmonics and oddly voiced chords create the effect of a desparate conversation in some other language, a fit of drunken laughter, a shout from a park at night. His melodies make mocking twins of naivete and cynicism, of ridicule and fond memory. (COPYRIGHT Time Magazine 1964)
“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes!” – Thelonius Monk
Louise and Albert instantly responded to this song, where a rocky love affair seems to be suspended in a timeless haze. Their interpretation shifts into focus as a camera panning from the vast New York skyline to a sneak-view through an apartment window. The “after hours” feel of this “dark Ballad” is irresistible to performers, making “’Round Midnight” the most recorded jazz standard in history. It still sounds fresh and original almost 70 years after its composition. Bernie Hanighen’s wordpaint ing of a painful moment in a rocky love affair floats in Monk’s music as if in a “whiskey-washed” haze.
Memories always start ‘round midnight
Haven’t got the heart to stand those memories,
When my heart is still with you,
And ol’ midnight knows it, too.