Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Friday, January 30, 2004

This morning, driving to work, listening to the radio show "Caravan,” Friday mornings on the local folk/jazz/world music/non-NPR world news public station:

“Epistrophy,” Thelonious Monk Quartet, live in 1966 at the Olympia in France (Paris?).  Never heard this version before.

Monk’s solo.

So minimal, just a few notes, usually just one note at a time, his distinctive sharp, clear timbre ringing out, grabbing you by the ears saying “listen to me”; Monk’s transcendently oblique relationship to the swinging 4/4 rhythm, making a few notes convey a depth of musical-soul consciousness that’s awe-inspiring; the obliqueness a mark of musical mastery conjured by few musicians in my experience -- Satchmo, Ornette, Monk, Mingus, Jon Hassell -- their way of playing beautiful melody in difficult-to-notate rhythms with a conscious but ineffable relationship to the beat at hand; calling to mind the wonderful quote from Evan Eisenberg in “The Recording Angel,” his great book about recorded-music-considered-as-such, “when we listen to music most deeply we seem to trace with one hand the folds of consciousness and with the other the patterns of the universe” (paraphrased); like the Pequod’s Pip after he’s fallen overboard, thinking he's going to drown, experiencing a vision of the foot of God pedaling the loom of the universe -- Monk’s solo with its stark and rhythmically complex, melodically simple, harmonically sophisticated beauty, it . . . it . . . it did THAT.
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