The Loneliest Monk

The birthday of jazz great Thelonius Monk was just last week, on the 10th; Monk would be 94 now. I learned this when I saw this on Facebook. It’s a couple of pages of advice Monk gave to a fellow musician.
This kind of thing always makes me terribly happy — getting a glimpse into the mind of a great musician is wonderful, because the real record of what was in their minds is in their music, obviously, but music doesn’t always tell you concrete things about the world. In fact, music rarely tells you concrete things about the world.
I’ve noted before that I’m not the best jazz listener out there. I enjoy good jazz, but I’ve always found that jazz exists for me at a bit of a distance. My relationship to jazz is not unlike my relationship with early classical music of the music of the Baroque era — often I can’t deny its quality, but I find it difficult to get to the emotional center of it. This isn’t always the case, though, as with this piece of Monk’s.

This is what Louis Armstrong was talking about when someone asked him to describe what jazz was, and Satchmo replied, “Man, if you got to ask, you’ll never know!”

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