TS Monk: His Fatherís Voice Ė Monk Quartet with Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, Part 2
AAJ: This must have been such a rewarding process for you as Thelonious Monk's son.
TSM: Let me tell you something, man. The fact that this record is on my label, on Thelonious Records, distributed by Blue Note, is sort of magical timing. It is unbelievable that among a bunch of staff engineers, this particular engineer just happened to be on duty this particular day, when this particular bunch of tapes came through the National Archives on their way to never-never land, never to be heard from again.
I've been thinking about a lot of guys on their level that I knew personally, and I know a lot of their personal history, and these are the two guys with no baggage. These are the only two guys where, you mention the name "Thelonious Monk and people say, "Yeah, man: integrity, honesty, straight-ahead, nicest guy in the world. You mention John Coltrane, it's the same rap. Nothing about how he was nasty or uncooperative. None of that shit.
It's so timely, and these are two guys that were incredibly maligned by the critics. Thelonious, from the day he showed up, really, until the day he died, THEN all the critics got on board with Thelonious Monk. John Coltrane, the critics turned on him post-Miles, it was heinous. So for these guys to re-emerge and for this recording to re-emerge, and it just happened to be a night they played at Carnegie Hall.
AAJ: What type of message do you think this new recording will send to today's jazz scene?
TSM: I emphasize this to young musicians, "Remember when you listen to this recording that they were playing for no money. All these young cats, all the time, they think they're playing so much shit and they're always talking about, "I need more money, I need more money. They were playing on this level, this music, for no money at all. It was a benefit. So this was about cats who were really locked into the music. For real.
All this stuff, to me, it doesn't seem by accident. That Blue Note Records is still around. That I happened to be hanging out at Cecil Brooks III's club in New Jersey where I met DXT, who's the guy who does all the electronic stuff for Herbie, and he did an absolutely incredible job of restoring this tape. All of these things...this is really not about me, this is not about Thelonious Records, this is not about Blue Note. This is really about Thelonious and John Coltrane and the history of western music.
AAJ: It does seem like more than mere luck or coincidence, doesn't it?
TSM: This was SUPPOSED to get out. It was supposed to get out. That's why it just didn't get into the national archives. It's been sitting around for forty-eight years and when it was time for it to be put in a tomb, it didn't go. That can't be just by pure luck. It's because of who it is and because it is as important as it is. I feel like, for all of us - you, writing about it; me, having the wherewithal to get together with the Coltrane family and put a great deal together; all the people who have been involved - this is actually bigger than all of us, and that's why we all know that we'd just like to be part of sending this one on its way to the world. Because this is the record that we all know is going to be here after we're all dead and gone, and you don't get an opportunity to touch something like this very often.
I am profoundly moved that this record fell into my hands. THIS record?!? It is so completely over the top.
Above and beyond it pleasing Monk fans and jazz aficionados and Coltrane fans and that sort of thing, I think it is going to reenergize the entire jazz community on the creative side. More than anything else, what these two guys were doing on this record, which just sits out in bold relief, is that they were being themselves. They were being themselves in a way that all of us who play this music want to be ourselves like that. And we all talk about it, but here we see the cats who were really really able to do that.
This is the kind of recording that is going to slap a whole bunch of tenor players who are trying to play like Coltrane, it will slap them in the face and say, "Stop doing that. Just stop doing that because it cannot be done. Find your OWN voice. And that's a message that has not been trumpeted to the jazz community big time in a long time. Find your own voice. It's gotten to the point where the record companies have forgotten that. Once the record companies forget something like that, we're all lost. That's why everybody's constantly walking around saying, "Man, I don't hear anything new. Well, you've got kids running around transcribing Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and playing them back verbatim, so you don't hear anything new on the record.
That whole thing, what my father was yelling at John Coltrane and yelling at Miles Davis and what they were all yelling at each other, at the top of their voice, all through the thirties, forties, fifties and into the sixties, was "Play your own shit. And that's what you're hearing on this recording. You say, "Man, that's Monk being Monk! And that's Coltrane being Coltrane! That is absolutely awesome. We haven't seen that in a long, long time.
Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane by Don Schlitten