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T.S. Monk Speaks Out

By Published: November 6, 2003
TM: Exactly. So I said, this is really who I am. I'm singing on my records, I'm playing funk, I'm playing straight ahead. I'm doing it all. It could be smooth. It could be lumpy. That's who I am, and there are a lot of people that like that and I'm going to have to prove itself to myself first, and see how my audience responds, and then I'll deal with the industry next. So, what I did was the next album after Monk on Monk was a wonderful album Crosstalk which got completely lost. What happened was the label I was on when I did Monk on Monk tanked'so they ended up selling the company and you know that if you put out a record in the midst of your company being sold, it's going to get lost. So Crosstalk got a little bit lost and I got really hurt because I'd worked for so long. You know, here I am, I got the jazz cd of the year with Monk on Monk, I know how the jazz industry works. You get the jazz cd year, you get at least a god damn shot with your next record and I got no fuckin' shot with my next record, I'm oughta hear. Fuck this whole fuckin' thing. I'm starting my own fuckin' label. I don't have to do one fuckin' gig in order to sit in my Mercedes, which I'm talking to you from, or to live in my fuckin' four hundred thousand dollar house in South Orange. So therefore I've got the resources and I have to fuckin' tighten up my fuckin' nut and get busy, put my own records out and market me as what I am.

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.

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