T.S. Monk Speaks Out
All this shit is drowning me, I have to get to some higher ground and that's why this next album, which is a continuation of Crosstalk , is called Higher Ground. That was the whole impetus behind this album and where I am now as an artists. During the two years between the albums'fortunately I've a good enough live act that all I play is concerts'I could work. So I said, 'I'm going to show myself, what this crosstalking is all about.' Now after two years of playing somebody like Kenny Durham, then singing 'Somebody Buy Me a Drink', and then playing some 'Girl Watch''in, then some Monk, then some deep Donald Brown stuff, then come back with 'Just a Little Lovin'' by Burt Bacharach. My audience loves me doing that! There ain't no drummers doing that. See, drummers are stupid! They think people give a shit about a drum solo. Ain't nobody give a shit about no drum solo.
AAJ: Except other drummers.
TM: Except the other drummers! People only understand one. They don't even understand one, two, three, four. Just one. All these polyrhythms, all this stuff we all know how to play. People don't remember all that. What's the most famous drum solo in the history of the world? 'Wipeout'! The whole fuckin' planet earth knows that. Because it's strong as nails, straight ahead, everything's on the one. Does anybody really know what Elvin was playing behind Coltrane in 'Ascension' 'Oh, sheets of polyrhythms!' We understand that. We know what Tony Williams was playing, but John Dough Public doesn't give a damn about drum solos and I submit to you that if you look at all the successful drummer band leaders'and I've done the count'there's about fifteen of us that have had a band like I've had, the one thing that we all have in common is that if you listen to our records, our records are dominated by great players and great tunes. And not dominated by drum solos. If you look at the drummers that had it going on but were never able to sustain that leadership role, you'll find that the records they made were full of drum solos. I first learned this from Chico Hamilton. People don't talk about this. Chico Hamilton's the kind of all of us. Chico Hamilton's had a band longer that Art Blakey. Drummers don't even talk about that. Drummers act like he doesn't exit. A lot of people should check him out'Leadership is about getting the right people together and getting them to do in concert something that makes the whole greater than the sum of it's parts. And it's a whole different skill'
AAJ: Hey, Count Basie was a master at that.
TM: Absolutely, absolutely. All this stuff, this is what T.S. Monk is about. And I'm going to be that. I'm going to sell me for what I am. Blue Note wanted me to be super straight ahead. If I'd have just wanted to make super-duper straight ahead records on Blue Note I'd still be over there making records. They loved me up there, but they knew my head was going somewhere else. They could hear the sound of the band was moving somewhere else. You know, going back to what I said earlier. When Art died'I was very close to him. He gave me my first drum set'when he died, I thought, there's a vacuum there. And there's nobody jumping on it because they didn't realize that that compact, super swinging, super dense, dynamite straight ahead sound, people loved that sound. I never want to an Art Blakey gig where the room wasn't standing room only. And it was always because the band was a bitch. Right up to the end. You didn't know who this week's Messengers was, but you knew that the style of the Jazz Messengers said that its gonna sound like x, minimum. So what I've tried to do over the past ten years with the T.S. Monk Band is to create a profile so that if you've heard the T.S. Monk Band you know that T.S. Monk's Band can be as tight, swinging, and explosive'it won't better if you catch them in a telephone booth or Yankee Stadium, that's the way it always is, so I know if I go to hear the T.S. Monk Band my foot will be tapping and I'll probably be laughing and smiling, too. That's show business and that's what I'm about. And that's what my records are all about. There's no apparatus in the industry right now to actually sell that kind of record so I have to create the apparatus. You know what? They're sleeping. See that's why I'm a cross talker. The fusion thing has had such a struggle because it alienated the jazz community in the early stages because they pulled out a lot of jazz, and injected a lot of rock. Originally it was jazz-rock than jazz funk, funk-jazz rock-funk, finally they came up with fusion.