Song Of the week

130: Thelonious Monk, ‘Let’s Call This’ (Monk’s Advice to Lacy)

You talk about a different drummer? Thelonious Monk inhabited a not-so-parallel universe. He played very few notes, and those unpredictable. Metronomes were witnessed imploding in his presence. He pounded the keyboard with extended, flat fingers. He got up in the middle of a song to dance. He wore funny hats. Sometimes he just refused to talk. But he gave soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy some unforgettable advice about how to be a ‘cool’ musician. Or maybe about How To Be. “A genius is the one most like himself,” Monk says. Clearly, Monk was exactly like Monk.

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119: Tom Harrell, ‘Train Shuffle’

Loath as I am to resort to gimmickry, it’s hard to ignore the back-story of trumpeter Tom Harrell’s paranoid schizophrenia. He hears voices, maintains ‘a tenuous contact with reality’, is heavily medicated, and speaks like a zombie who’s just seen a ghost. Until he puts his horn to his lips, when he’s instantly and magically possessed by an utterly coherent aesthetic expressiveness.

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