Thelonious Monk – Raise Four

This week (October 10th) marked the birthday of one of Jazz’s greatest figures, Theloniuos Sphere Monk, who would have been 94 had he not passed in 1982 from a stroke. Credited with the invention of bebop, and one of, if not the most colorful figures in the history of Jazz, Monk’s career spanned 5 decades. Although his personal life would often overshadow his music, it seemed that the press and public focused more on his eccentricities than his musical ability itself. Only one of 4 Jazz musicians to ever be featured on the cover of Time magazine, the magazine itself called him “the loneliest Monk” and his reputation as a recluse was well known. Self taught in Jazz theories, Monk took a different path to his fame, and unfortunately paid the price by being persecuted by the press throughout his career. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that Thelonious Monk was a huge contributor to the genre, and has left a legacy of music for future generations to learn from.

“ There, my good man, is the guy (Monk) who deserves the most credit for starting be-bop. Though he won’t admit it, I think he feels he got a bum break in not getting some of the glory that went to others. Rather than go out and have people think he’s just an imitator, Thelonious is thinking up new things. I believe he hopes one day to come out with something as far ahead of bop as bop is ahead of the music that went before it. ”- Teddy Hill, Downbeat Magazine – September 24, 1947

I wanted to share a tune I really dig from his 1968 Underground Lp, which is probably more well known for the cover than the music. On the cover, Monk portrays a French resistance fighter in the World War II and the liner notes weave a tale of Monk’s pet cow named Jelly Roll and how he has a piano on the front and plays it for 40 or 50 minutes before each fight. Pretty out there stuff, but would you expect anything less from the man? The tune is “Raise Four”, and with it sees the last incarnation of the Quartet, and features Monk on piano, Charlie Rouse on tenor sax, Larry Gales on bass, and Ben Riley on drums. Underground was the first of Monk’s Columbia releases, and was a huge change to his previous rehashed efforts of old songs on different labels the preceding years. New record label, new, unrecorded material, and a new spark to his late 60’s career. In only 3 short years, Monk would then go through his steady decline of musical output and personal issues. So while a lot of people may say “Happy Birthday Monk!”, here’s “Straight No Chaser”, or “Round Midnight”, I’m gonna take a different road by walking to the underground and shine some light on an often overlooked record from the master. Happy Birthday Monk, instead of raising two, I’m raising four for you this week. Keep Diggin’!

Download or Listen to “Raise Four” from the Underground Lp

Keep Diggin’!

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