At the New Yorker Culture Desk:  “Think of Monk.”

Very special thanks to Jason Moran and Chris Calhoun, who, after being shown a first draft, offered profound insight into how to shape this essay. I took all of their suggestions.

More on Monk soon…actually I’m just getting started!

Monk Manuscripts For Sale

My eyes bugged out of their sockets when I idly typed in “Thelonious Monk” into eBay and ranked the search by “highest cost first.” The pictures are remarkably clear.  The “Boo Boo’s Birthday” is identical to the one seen on the piano in the documentary Straight No Chaser, so there’s no question in my mind that the scores are authentic.

The prices are high but not without reason, of course. However, for serious jazz students, just taking a long look at Monk’s handwriting is priceless. There should be a proper folio of manuscripts from all the jazz greats.

The pictures are hi-resolution but blessedly unprotected. We need to see these, especially the dramatic chart of “Boo Boo’s Birthday” with no chord symbols and every voicing written out.


Boo Boo's Brithday


Monk Xmas song


Monk Straight No Chaser

I got to these really because I was sort of scratching an itch to collect original Monk LPs. I could never afford it, but I love to look. For the first time I found my favorite disc in the  10-inch issue. The cover isn’t very exciting but the label has a classic misspelling: “Thelonius.”

Monk prestige

Friends and Neighbors


Today TBP is rehearsing with Bill Frisell for two shows at the Walker tomorrow, gigs in Urbana and Columbus next week, and finally a week at the Vanguard. The repertoire is all Bill’s from his first decade, 1985-1995. It’s been really fun to listen to that extraordinary body of work again. Joey Baron, of course, is obviously so very great in so many ways. You can’t miss the creativity and sonority of Hank Roberts, either. But this time around I found myself paying special attention to Kermit Driscoll, who makes brilliant choices that are not obvious yet always pleasing.

The Anthology Songbook is authorized by the composer. It’s fascinating to listen to the records with the charts at hand.

Was pleased to see Concerto to Scale selected in the NY Times preview of the coming year. I’ve got two movements written and a good idea for the rondo. (Spoiler: there are scales.) Looks like an interesting program all-around! I’m hoping to perform Anderson’s thoroughly deconstructed blues call “Watermelon” at some point.

ACO Woolfe

Embarrassing, and it’s already too much, but if you want to give generously to the Jazz Gallery, I’ll hang out with you. (Winces.)

The very first jazz camp I attended was at the Shell Lake Arts Center in Wisconsin in the summer between seventh and eighth grades. Wow, was that a great experience! Ron Keezer was on faculty there. Ron is a good drummer and his son is celebrated jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer (DTM interview). I can’t remember  the exact progression, but Ron took an interest in me (I think after meeting me at the Shell Lake Jazz Camp) and helped out in a couple of significant ways, including encouraging me to apply for a IAJE Young Talent Award when I was a junior in high school. The little audition tape I made with Ron’s help won me the award. More important than the prize was the process of recording. Ron played drums and got the new kid at Eau Claire college to play bass: Reid Anderson. Yes, the very first time Reid and I played together was “Bemsha Swing” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily” with Ron Keezer in the campus “studio.”

Shell Lake Arts Center has been around for 50 years, and it’s time for the Center to attend to some critical faculty needs. Read “Composing a Future” to learn what the camp is planning, and donate to help the arts in Wisconsin keep flourishing.

My mentor Fred Hersch has a compelling memoir out, Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz. I’ve read it twice. I thought I really knew Fred inside and out but still learned a lot. It’s noticeably frank, closer to Art Pepper’s Straight Life or Hampton Hawes’s Raise Up Off Me than most modern “careful” autobiographies.

Long-term associate Mark Turner is the topic of multiple articles in Music & Literature No. 8.  The interview with Ben Ratliff is online. On October 30 there will be a M&L No. 8 launch at the Poet’s House in Manhattan.

Comparatively recent associate Scott Wollschleger is finally releasing a CD, Soft Aberration. The title track is totally my jam. There is a release party including live music at 1 Rivington on October 20.

My friend Debi Cornwall’s new book is Welcome to Camp America, photographs and essays about the U.S. Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay. Extraordinary photos! A release party is happening at the Steve Kasher gallery on October 26.

Scott Dikkers recently interacted with me on Twitter. It would be hard to overestimate the impact Jim’s Journal had on me during my snarky adolescence. Paging through the canon, collected in an essential volume, I discovered two perfect musical panels, both featuring John Cage (although the first one is an unspoken and perhaps inadvertent reference).



Speaking of young influences, I will never shake the profound sway of Doctor Who. Two of the most entertaining books about the show are by Steve Cambden, The Doctor’s Affect and The Doctor’s Effects. While on tour in the UK I found them at a Forbidden Planet, but as far as I know they never were really available in the USA. Cambden just made them an easy order from the author directly. A must for Whovians. A favorite passage from The Doctor’s Effects:


Miranda Cuckson (DTM interview) writes about premiering the Georg Friedrich Haas violin concerto.

Matthew Guerrieri shines a light on a common interest, the great Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.

Sam Newsome is keeping his blog vital. Thanks Sam!

Coming up next on DTM: Thelonious Monk, I’m very involved in the Monk centennial, especially with the major celebration I am co-curating with Duke Performances.  There’s a New York gig as well, presented by Bradley Bambarger and Sound it Out!



Sarah and Shahirah

For the last year or so I’ve been blessed to have not just one but two great writers gracing my apartment. Shahirah Majumdar is one of Sarah’s best friends and frequently stays with us when visiting New York. I learn a lot listening to them discuss prose, poetry, politics, and everything else.

Earlier this week my wife made her Inside HBO Boxing debut with a profile of Abel Sanchez, the trainer of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. The big fight with Canelo Alvarez is tonight, and for serious boxing fans this match far more important than that over-hyped Mayweather-McGregor snooze.

Shahirah is currently in Bangladesh, where she just filed an astonishing report for Vice on how, “Burmese security forces have been waging a systematic campaign of violence against the Rohingya population of Myanmar’s westernmost state of Rakhine.” 

Every detail in Shahirah’s story seems more shocking than the last. An article in the Independent offers ways to “help those fleeing genocide.”


Relevant Information

From the uncompleted files from about five years ago: Herbie into Kenny and McCoy into Kenny. The left hand is extremely important, and I just didn’t get around to finishing the left hand with Kirkland.

I remembered these when a student asked me yesterday about “E.S.P,”  which in my view is one of the hardest tunes. “Yes or No” is not easy either.

Looking at these now I think I learned what I needed to and am not going to work on these more. They are probably full of mistakes and, again, the Kirkland left hand is crucial. If anyone wants the Finale files to edit you can hit me up on Twitter or FB.

Audio files included…

Herbie Hancock’s solo on “E.S.P.” with Ron Carter and Tony Williams:

herbie ESP 1herbie ESP 2


Kenny Kirkland’s solo on “E.S.P.” with Eddie Gomez and Peter Erskine:

Kirkland ESP 1Kirkland ESP 2



McCoy Tyner’s solo on “Yes or No” with Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones:

McCoy YesNo 1McCoy YesNo 2McCoy YesNo 3McCoy YesNo 4



(Most of) Kenny Kirkland’s first chorus with Robert Hurst and Jeff Watts from video at Bottom Line:Kirkland Yes No


(There’s a bad incorrect edit later in the piano solo.)