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Interviews

T.S. Monk Speaks Out

By Published: November 6, 2003
TM: No. It took me from '92 when I started the band to 1994 to get up enough courage and to get the credibility under my belt to even entertain the idea to the kind of people I wanted involved. Then it took me another four years to sort of figure out what the hell am I going to do? I mean, everybody's been doing this that and the other for years and years and years. I ain't the first guy to do a tribute to Thelonious Monk I gotta do one that's special. So to make a long story short when I did Monk on Monk and I had the help of Don Siegler and all the wonderful musicians that were involved that made it a success, for me it was like, O.K. everybody, I've dealt with daddy. Now you all know that I know who daddy is. I said, O.K. I've done the keeper of the gate thing, too. In '92 with a super-duper straight ahead band. We had just lost Art Blakey and that's what I jumped on, was that opening and everybody said, 'You gotta hear Monk. They're like the Jazz Messengers. It's like an old time band. They're swingin'' So I said, I've done the can he play thing. Now that I'd done the 'Can he play' thing and the 'here's to daddy' thing, both had been successful, and I did 'I wanna dance' thing in the eighties'and was successful at that'it's time now for me to be what I was taught to be by my father and I was taught to be a jazz musician.

The bottom line is you've got to be yourself. You can't give a god damn what the critics are going to say, and for that matter you can't really care'as you're creating'what your fans are going to say. What you have to do, you have to be who you are, you have throw yourself out, and let the chips fall where they may. I watched my daddy do that. I watched John Coltrane do that. I watched Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter do that, and I'm going to do that. What is a T.S. Monk really? Who are you really? And I said, you're a guy that grew up with Duke Ellington John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Max Roach, the Temptations, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix. I said, you're a baby boomer, man. You got them crazy years that the baby boomers got. Now what do you like to do, Thelonious? Well, I like to play funk, and I like to sing a song, I like to tell a joke, I like to tell a story, I like to swing like hell, and I like to cool it, and I like all these things and that's what I'm going to do from this point on.

I'm going to be true to what my daddy always said, 'Be true to yourself. Do your own thing.' And I'm gonna let the chips fall where they may. Because what the world has told me. The world has told me, 'T.S. Monk, we like your dance music a little bit. And T.S. Monk we like your jazz music. T.S. Monk, we like the way you deal with your daddy, and T.S. Monk we like to hear you give speeches and tell stories,' and I said, 'I'm a cross talker'. That's what I am. It's not about fusion. I'm not a fusion guy. I'm a crosstalker. I talk in different languages, musically. If I play you funk, it sounds funky. If I play straight ahead, there's no doubt that this is a badass straight ahead drummer. And that's crosstalking. And I'm doing it all the time. It's not crossing over. You see crossing over'like and the guy I like most in the music is Herbie, he's a very close friend'Herbie has crossed over. Herbie can cross back and forth whenever he wants to'he does one now, then a couple years something else. Whatever he feels like.

A few years ago he was into the standards. But I'm the next generation. I'm mixed up. I'm schizophrenic. I want to do it all at the same time. Then I thought about it a little more and I thought, 'I know a lot of people like me that really, really love John Coltrane. And they really actually dig Kenny G. They really, really, really love Leon Thomas and Sarah Vaughn, and they really, really, really love Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. What's going on? Whose actually addressing that very, very real ear in the marketplace? I said, 'No one's got the guts to do that. Because no one wants to be honest enough to say, 'You know what? I like it all!' We are so accustomed now to the pigeonholes that you're shit better fit into a pigeonhole too. You better like a rock, or a funk, or a this or a that. It's not only the artist that has to be this or that, but the listener also has to be a this-listener or a that-listener.

AAJ: Identity formation. Exactly the opposite of the jazz mentality.



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