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I propose passing a law that requires every jazz recording to include at least one Thelonious Monk song. The reason is not that Monk is my favorite composer, but that Monk’s music is some of the most difficult to play. Maybe not technically difficult for jazz professionals, but rhythmically challenging and isn’t it so easy hear a Monk song done wrong. Several tribute recordings worth hearing include, Paul Motian’s Monk In Motian, Danilo Perez’s Latin spiced Panamonk, of course Steve Lacy’s Monk albums and Only Monk. Add to the list this recording, sans piano by Steve Slagle. Slagle is a veteran of Lionel Hampton, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley and the Charles Mingus Big Bands. His approach to Monk is simply to attack the compositions aggressively. Where most musicians are hesitant about Monk, Slagle and guitarist Dave Stryker dive feet first. Slagle with his Jackie McLean/Gary Bartz approach and Stryker a descendant from the John Abercrombie/John Scofield/Mike Stern school of guitar know how to rock, but more importantly how to make Thelonious’ foot tap. Eight of the tracks are Monk’s, one composition “Monk” penned by Slagle might as well have been. The altoist captures the essence of the great man in the tribute song, as he does in the eight others. I can imagine Monk spinning a glorious stage dance while this quartet burns.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.