mcall.com - Thelonious Monk's son gets it righthelonious Monk's son gets it right
Jazz drummer cherishes his father's legendary heritage.
By Tim Blangger
Of The Morning Call
August 15, 2005
Not surprisingly, the legend of the late jazz pianist, Thelonious Monk, played a major role in a concert led by his only son, T.S. Monk at Bethlehem's Musikfest on Thursday night.
Before a near-capacity audience at Moravian College's Foy Hall, Monk, a jazz drummer, played three of his father's tunes. He even began and ended the performance with his father's pieces, ''Evidence'' and ''Think of One.'' But Monk said ''Evidence'' wasn't the tune with which the sextet had planned to open the show.
Willie Williams, the band's tenor player, got lost in the confusing streets of Bethlehem and walked on stage as the band was a quarter-way through ''Evidence.'' Monk knows all too well about the confusing streets. He got lost when he last played the same Musikfest venue in 1994.
''Evidence,'' with its demanding structure, wasn't exactly the warm-up the band had wanted, but it seemed to work well enough and everyone took a solo, except Williams, of course.
The rest of the concert had much to do with T.S. Monk's own ideas of music. The tunes included a floating, funky tune, ''Ladera Heights,'' written by the band's trumpeter, Winston Byrd. The group also played a tune by Clifford Jordan, ''Higher Ground,'' but not before Monk told a story about how Jordan, a band leader, had given him a chance to play in the early '80s, a move that helped Monk transition back into jazz after spending about 20 years as a rhythm and blues musician.
Monk also mentioned the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, the organization he founded to honor his father's music. The institute's annual music competitions and academic programs have been springboards for many musicians. The sextet's nimble pianist, Helen Sung, studied under the institute's University of Southern California program. And a young vocalist, Rachael Price, 19, whom Monk brought out for two numbers — his father's signature tune, '''Round Midnight,'' and ''You Hit The Spot'' — was the youngest-ever competitor in the institute's prestigious vocal competition.
The concert's end-piece, a sextet version of Thelonious Monk's ''Think Of One,'' also had a reference to the Monks, father and son. The piece was written for sextet, although it was often performed in a quartet setting. Also, a longtime collaborator with T.S. Monk, the trumpeter and arranger Don Sickler, did the arrangement for the sextet, basing it on the elder Monk's original piano solo.
Things were going well until the end, when the band missed a tempo change. Monk, seated behind his drums, yelled ''no!'' and the band started the last section again, getting it right the second time.
Thelonious Monk's legacy is in good hands.
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