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​Jazz Ramadan, Monks Mood

August 16, 2020

You know a couple years ago I invented my own religious celebration, one of the fun things you can do when you invent your own religion (and meta-God; All Hail Athee™). Jazz Ramadan happens in the hottest part of late summer here, between Rahsaan Roland Kirks Day (Aug17) and Tranemass (Sept23). In this time the devotee should spend time fasting and listening to the masters. I’ve been on a pretty rugged juice cleanse since last Wednesday, (nothing but fruits and vegetables with no salt!) and I’ve been listening intentionally to the holy Bop and Post Bop, honoring the sounds with action, like organizing my CDs . . . the ones upstairs anyway.

Honestly since the beginning of the troubles I’ve been trying to dig my vinyls more, but my old turntable was just shot. I’d ‘fixed’ it a few times but it was a belt drive and the belt must have been slipping - it couldn’t maintain a steady speed and, more and more, sounded just terrible. So I got myself a new one one - I’ve always wanted a proper DJ turntable so I treated myself with a top of the line Technics. Now I’ve just been playing all of my records, oh man, it sounds so much better. So as you can see, a Jazz Ramadan present should be something we treat ourselves with that enables our devotion!

And yea, I’ve just been digging all my records, what a pleasure. It is important, especially for this sacred moment, to spend time just listening, not doing the dishes or reading, or just ‘having it on in the background’. And musicians shouldn’t just be listening to decipher the music. Sit and quiet the mind and listen to the sound with a beginners ears. An album side is a perfect length for this type of meditation. And it is a meditation, breath works help, but it’s important that when thoughts come up, we let them go, and continue listening in the moment. Try it when you can be undisturbed, on the best available equipment, (Amen!) maybe some headphones or something. Close your eyes.  

This morning I woke up with “Monks Mood” in my head, well, just the melody.  I couldn’t recall the title. In the spirit of the season then, I grabbed all my Monk records and looked through the songs - is that it? Ask Me Now? No, that’s a different melody. That could be it on the Town Hall record, but wait . . . damn, it’s not Monk, well it is, but I’m hearing Bud Powell’s version! Man, it’s from one of my all time favorite records, Bud Powell Trio with Kenny Clarke and Pierre Michelot. “‘Round About Midnight at the Blue Note” - but I always thought of it as Bud in Paris, as it was recorded at the Blue Note in Paris (1962.)

Kenny Clarke is one of the architects of Modern Jazz, and is credited with developing much of ‘jazz style’ drumming. And sounds just amazing on this record. The strong melodic swing of Pierre Michelot made this trio, sometimes referred to as “The Three Bosses”, the pinnacle of the expatriate jazz scene at that time. Man, I’d like to dig into some of the related recordings - with Dexter Gordon they recorded the famous “Our Man In Paris”(1963.) I have a bunch of Dexter reissue CDs, but I think they’re all later Columbia Records stuff. (We used to go by the Sony Music offices in Manhattan and and sneak down to the Columbia floor for freebies.) Anyhow, I think Clarke’s big band work from this time is due for some study.

At any rate, Monks Mood is a real ear worm for me, especially how they play it. I love the bass figure in the second bar, which I’m guessing is their arrangement. I’ve been playing different Monk versions trying to dig it. Mostly getting lost in this pile of records here though. I checked the ‘original’ Blue Note version with Art Blakey (1947) and they almost hint at it, after an intro based on the B section, but they don't play the figure. The other version I have (on vinyl anyhow) is from The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall, with some real groovy harmonies, but not that figure Bud plays.

A while back I think I started a transcription, at least noted that bit in my Real Book . . . maybe tried to play it on the piano. I’ll try it again - oh the bridge looks pretty tricky.

But first one more record. My other favorite Monk record that isn’t a Monk record, “In Orbit: Clark Terry Quartet with Thelonious Monk”(1958) - Philly Joe and Sam Jones, oh man they cook. Clark plays flugelhorn, the sound is amazing, so mellow but sharp. As a trumpeter I knew back in Boston said, ‘he plays like he’s go marbles in his mouth’, it sounds like cotton regardless. Monk is hot, playing plenty of accompaniment, and burning in a cooler way than on one of his own dates, I think.

Do yourself a favor; All can celebrate Jazz Ramadan! Just chill out by yourself, or in a small group - we know how to do that now right? And put on your favorite jazz side, maybe like some ’60s Wayne Shorter or Herbie Hancock. Now just quietly listen. Stay focused on the instruments, on the sounds coming out of the speakers or headphones. The language of the Devine is non-verbal.

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Portland, OR, too damn hot.


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