Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Monk Sound & How It Got That Way

Robin D.G. Kelley's Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original is the best book that I've read on the great man and is cited liberally in the appreciation above. But it also is a dense doorstop of a read at nearly 600 pages (with footnotes) and is recommended only for people who want to know what Monk ate for breakfast each morning, if you catch my drift. Where Kelley does shine is an a brief appendix in which he discusses the technical aspects of Monk's daunting music. An excerpt:

"Monk's unique sound has a lot to do with how he voiced his chords. As early as 1941, he was already experimenting with 'open' voicings -- ie., something playing just the root and seventh of a dominant or major seventh chord, eliminating the third and fifth. The impact on the ear is quite startling."

It is indeed.

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