NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 34

THE JAZZ COMPOSER AS VISIONARY By KOFI NATAMBU By 1955 the legendary pianist-composer Thelonious Sphere Monk (b. October 10, 1917) had been playing music professionally for over twenty years. “They were always telling me for years to play commercial, be commercial. I’m not commercial. I say play your own way. Don’t play what the public wants — you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you’re doing — even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years.” — Thelonious Monk “Monk is a virtuoso of the specific techniques of Jazz, in challengingly original uses of accent, rhythm, meter, time and of musically expressive space, rest, and silence…He is a major jazz composer, the first since Duke Ellington…His repertory abounds with intriguing melodies, truly instrumental pieces…To play Monk properly, musicians justly testify, you have to know the melody and the harmony and understand how they fit together… It is a sign of the great Jazz composer that his sense of form extends beyond written structure and beyond individual improviser, to encompass a whole performance…So it is with Monk.” 32 — Martin Williams PHOTOGRAPH BY THIAGO “TH”. AVAILABLE AT HTTPS://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/THSANT/611362039/ UNDER A CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION 2.0. FULL HTTP://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/2.0/ THELONIOUS MONK: