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Highly Opinionated

Crepuscule with Thelonious

By Published: February 14, 2008
At Columbia in to 60s, Monk is a god. The world opens up to him and he records and performs with abandon. He had a new quartet and he forms the lasting relationship with Charlie Rouse. He travels to Europe, to Japan. The Monastic Legend spreads far and wide. He wows hundreds wherever he goes. Oliver Nelson repeats the Big Band readings of Monk's charts. The ever-present Teo Macero. But Nelson does a great job and Monk is happy.

You would think that people would read him the way he wants to be read. for the moment, of the moment. After all, who cares where jazz is headed. It could be going to hell, for all I care. Listen to the music. The music is important. Nothing else matters but the contribution of the music.

People ask what about Trane? Well, what about Trane? He's an important musician and he's going places, I suppose. Change the world and all that. Who cares. Now there's a working Quartet. All ears on Rouse. They compare his work to Trane and Griffin and. Well what next? Charlie Rouse is to Monk what Strayhorn is to Duke and Dannie Richmond is to Mingus and so on and so forth. None of the others had a dry, muscular tone. None of the others read Monk charts like Monk wanted them to be read. None of them delivered day in and day out and there is something to be said when you come to the music each day and you too can read the angular notes and play the angular chords and just breathe in the spaces between. Rouse reads Monk charts the way Monk likes them to be. Sometimes just a hand signal is all he needs. So that's just the way it is and the way it will be.

Monk to quartet: Let's funk up the repertoire. And here are some things blue some things new. "Green Chimneys," for instance. "Ugly Beauty" and "Boo Boo's Birthday." AND Monk is heard around the world. Legend has it he is otherwise close to taking a vow of silence, before his time.

Monk to guy in elevator: Nice to meet you Mr. Macero. Then to self on the way out of the building: This piano sounds terrible. It's out of tune. But the music is mine.

Monk walks out. He dances to the rhythm of "'Round Midnight" as he disappears across the plaza and into the darkness. Save Nellie and the children. No one else sees him again, except perhaps 'Nica. No one. Not for a long time. Generations mourn for Monk—and, with the exception of the musicians—none with so much as an iota of remorse.

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