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Monk's Trumpets

Matt Lavelle By

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Monk's last session for Blue Note was in 1952 with Max Roach, Lucky Thompson on tenor, Lou Donaldson on alto, and twenty-eight year Kenny Dorham (1924-1972) on trumpet. Dorham had already replaced Miles Davis with Charlie Parker where he spent a year. He came to this session with his sound and playing style intact. On "Skippy," Dorham handles the up-tempo "Tea for Two" chord changes with ease and sounds relaxed despite the speed. On "Hornin' In," Dorham only gets to solo over the A section. As he works through Monk's chords, his response is not to attack, but instead to let it happen. He doesn't reach for over-complex ideas. It's a Charlie Rouse approach and keeps the vibe of the piece flowing. On the sixteen-bar piece titled "Sixteen," Monk mercifully calls a medium tempo for a dissonant and difficult line. Dorham only gets one solo chorus but takes his time, and swings with feeling. "Let's Cool One" has Dorham with an opening solo chorus where he sounds like Miles Davis with Charlie Parker but with Dorham's sound. Later on, Dorham would have to fill another player's shoes when he replaced Clifford Brown with Max Roach after Clifford's tragic death, a near impossible task. From 1958-1964 he recorded as a leader. In a continuation of the tragic lives of jazz trumpet players, Dorham suffered kidney disease and was forced to curtail his playing. He worked at the post office and Manny's Music store while he also did some freelance writing for Downbeat, going out of his way to condemn free jazz players, especially Giuseppi Logan in a scathing review. Dorham succumbed to the illness in 1972 at 48 years old, truly underrated. He was one of the trumpet players to successfully navigate a course through Monk's music.

Next up we reach trumpet player Ray Copeland (1926-1984), recording with Monk for the Prestige label in a quintet in 1954 while working at a day job in a paper company. Highlights include Copeland handling a relatively brisk version of Monk's "Hackensack" and some choice blues phrasing on "Locomotive." Copeland studied classical trumpet and was eventually able to work in music full time by 1955. He had a fat, bright, and pungent tone and had by 1954 created a style that worked for him combining bop with some swing and blues elements. The only stylistic influences I can detect are Charlie Shavers and Clifford Brown, but Copeland's tone is less distinctive. He had a personal inner tempo and superimposed his playing on top of Monk rather than more personal interaction. In 1957 Copeland played on a famous Monk album titled "Monk's Music" with none other than Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane on tenors. He solos directly after Coltrane on "Well You Needn't" and "Epistrophy." On both solos, Monk strolls leaving Copeland in a trio format where Art Blakey generates an enormous feeling of swing. In Robin Kelley's book on Monk, we learn that Monk warned Copeland that elaborate runs in the upper register were impractical because it left him no time to breathe. Monk would later say that extreme range playing took away Dizzy's tone. Copeland also worked with Monk outside the studio on live dates. In 1957 he recorded a record with Phil Woods, where he continues to reach into the upper register where he escapes all of his influences. On "Green Pines," he uses a Harmon mute but plays as if he is playing an open horn, dodging the penchant of players for playing a Miles type number. In the process, he sounds more like Lee Morgan who played with a Harmon mute loud and directly into the microphone, whereas Miles played softly. In 1964, Copeland recorded with pianist Randy Weston where he sounds like Jon Faddis when Faddis doesn't play like Dizzy Gillespie, though Faddis didn't start recording until 1969! On flugelhorn, Copeland dodges his influences. Playing flugelhorn is choosing to embrace sound over range, except in the case of Red Rodney who was able to do both.


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