Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monk's Advice (1960)

Some have claimed that this was written in Thelonious Monk's hand, but I did some digging about and found this:


In the past couple of days, an extraordinary number of thoughtful people have forwarded the following document to me, often with the suggestion that Thelonious Monk penned it himself...

I have confirmed with expert jazz historians; this is Steve Lacy's work, who played with Monk in 1960. Lacy's introduction to Thelonious Monk: His Life and Music uses the above material explicitly.

You can click the image to embiggen or read it here:

- Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep time.

- Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head when you play.

- Stop playing all that bullshit, those weird notes, play the melody!

- Make the drummer sound good.

- Discrimination is important.

- You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?

- All reet!

- Always know… (Monk)

- It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.

- Let’s lift the band stand!!

- I want to avoid the hecklers.

- Don’t play the piano part, I am playing that. Don’t listen to me, I am supposed to be accompaning (sic) you!

- The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.

- Don’t play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music just imagined.

- What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.

- A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.

- Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig & when it comes, he’s out of shape & can’t make it.

- When you are swinging, swing some more!

- (What should we wear tonight?) Sharp as possible!

- Always leave them wanting more.

- Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.

- Those pieces were written so as to have something to play & to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal!

- You've got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (to a drummer who didn’t want to solo).

- Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along & do it. A genius is the one most like himself.

- They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it.

found via Robot Wisdom X2


Bunk Strutts said...

WOW! Whatta find. Kinda knocks out the stereotype of the drug-addled jazzbo nighthawks.

John M. said...

In Miles Davis's autobiography he cited Monk was the one that they all looked to for the vibe.

Coltrane worked harder than any of them, but Miles said that if they were playing and Monk's feet weren't moving, they knew they were slipping.

John M. said...

btw, if you haven't seen it, be sure to check out the film "Straight, No Chaser". One of the greatest films on music I have experienced.

John M. said...


Bunk Strutts said...

Beyond the valley of cool.

When I was a young Bunk playing trumpet, I didn't understand jazz. I knew what it was, liked it, but I didn't understand it.

I went from Herb Alpert to Al Hirt to Louis Armstrong to Bix Beiderbeck, but by that time I'd lost my chops, just when I was about to get 'em.

Still got my vintage silver-plated Velvetone in my closet, though.

John M. said...

Nice. I played the clarinet for a brief while as a kid.

Most of my musical experience in my younger days was in chorus. I sang in a totally badass choir. In the tenth grade I had hit the lowest bass note ever hit by a human.

Somewhere out there, I'm on wax singing in The Messiah.

Never played jazz, but I love it, grew to love it more over the years. The closest I ever came to playing jazz was with my electronic "acid jazz". Don't really do that anymore, but I still DJ now and again.

Bill said...

I'm one of those guys that played in bands until my mid-20's then stopped for family, job, etc. I started playing again (drums) about five years ago - I'm 58. Since I started I've focused on jazz. It is a total blast! So much room for spontaneity. On the other hand, it takes a lot of practice to learn to be able to play spontaneously. Monk's music is where it's at. Spend time with his tunes and it rethreads your head. These notes, although not Monk's, are sacred writ.

John M. said...

Hi Bill.

Glad to know that you're back on the axe. Making music is always a good thing. A few buddies of mine are still bugging me to get back to it after I gave it up a few years ago.

I miss it sometimes and even though I never played jazz, it is always a source of inspiration for me. It is truly a free, yet disciplined, form with the perfect balance of all that is great in music.