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TS Monk: His Father's Voice Monk Quartet with Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, Part 1

By Published: September 26, 2005

AAJ: Has the new record impacted you as a drummer, too?

TSM: You can go even a step further: I was sitting with Cecil Brooks III and Michael Carvin; we were listening to the recording, and it was, for all of us, our first chance to really hear Shadow Wilson playing out. Now dig this: Until I heard this recording, I, Ben Riley, and every other drummer after Frankie Dunlop, sort of played Monk with a Frankie Dunlop flavor. Because we all agreed that Frankie Dunlop was the perfect match with Monk. But I listened to this recording and I realized that Frankie Dunlop was on the scene, he was listening—Frankie Dunlop was playing Shadow Wilson, who Thelonious always said was his favorite drummer. So I find that the influence that I thought was coming from Frankie Dunlop was coming from Shadow Wilson.

Because all of a sudden, the way that Thelonious Monk's band swings with Shadow Wilson is different from Roy Haynes, it's different from Max Roach, it's different from Art Blakey. It's the patented swing that we're all familiar with, from Thelonious Monk.

If you look over at John Coltrane: He came out of a heavy, heavy dose of the Jimmy Cobbs of the world, the Philly Joe Joneses, but what does Shadow Wilson have that was different from Max Roach and Art Blakey and all the rest of those cats that had preceded him? It was that little kind of upbeat swing, that little sort of high-stepping, dancing kind of thing. It was a sound on the ride cymbal: Instead of doing "ding-da-ding, ding-da-ding", it went "ding-da-ding, ding-da-ding". John Coltrane doesn't go get a Philly Joe Jones kind of a cat, he doesn't go get a Jimmy Cobb-sounding cat, he goes gets this young cat named Elvin Jones. Who plays with what? An upbeat swing!

So the influences back and forth were unbelievable. AND you're talking about two guys, one mentoring the other, that actually moved the music itself. This recording is telling us that, as the musicians had always said, Monk's influence was absolutely profound. It was the most powerful influence in modern jazz on so many different levels. And on John, it opened him wide up. When I listen to John Coltrane here and know that he had come from Miles' band, and now I listen to "So What?" or "Milestones," I say, "Damn, he was in a straitjacket." That's John Coltrane—you NEVER think of John Coltrane in a straitjacket, he's playing all over the place. But compared to what he was doing with Monk, he sounds like he was in a straitjacket. So I am saying, "Whoa. This is why Coltrane was coming to the house every day." Because this music was opening him wide up.

Continue: Part 2

Photo Credit
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane by Don Schlitten

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