The Sound I felt ~ RiffShot of a Jazz Portrait of Monk Who Demonstrated the Bliss of Being Who He Truly Was…featuring Thelonious Monk – Epistrophy

American Jazz Pianist Thelonious Monk on TIME MAGAZINE Cover
American Jazz Pianist Thelonious Monk on TIME MAGAZINE Cover

“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”  Joseph Campbell

Jazz dropped a distinctive musical expression into American culture at the turn of the 20th Century.  The presence of jazz became expansive, universal, and prolific. It became the most influential approach to music for all time.  Jazz blends diverse contexts by capturing sounds and rhythms transforming them into spontaneous and synchronistic styles that infuse harmonic manipulations and maelstrom rhythms that are featured in solo and group performances.  Jazz is an acoustic metaphor of life’s challenges or riffs.  Our emotions  love, fear, anger, sorrow and joy create a canvas upon which we live.  Life’s challenges (riffs) are:  abandonment, arrogance, inferiority, rejection and shame.  Personal transformation allows us to overcome these riffs.  Jazz is a way of dealing with life’s challenges especially through featured solo performances.  The formula for a good life is harmony; being able to maintain and live truthfully; showing up and sharing a sense of well-being and interconnectedness with others.  Finally having faith and trusting that these riffs are merely a part of living.  My biggest riff has always been abandonment beginning when I was just a little chick.  It filled the spectrum of being alone, judged and dependent upon everything and one outside of me.  Jazz taught me what being in the world and not of it truly means.  Joseph Campbell wrote: “The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are”.  Growing up in a jazz filled environment enabled me to see life from a different perspective.  I initially saw and felt it when dad was composing and arranging songs.  I also witnessed it at rehearsals and live performances on stage.  I discovered that I experienced it when I am reading and writing prose and making collages.  I had to keep it as a secret because the fear that dad would abandon me became overwhelming.  It took many years for me to develop the courage to be me.

So now let’s take a closer look at jazz as an acoustic metaphor of life.  The jazz ensemble/orchestra is an acoustic canvas of what I would describe as the ‘good life’. The difference between an ensemble and a classical symphony orchestra is that jazz ensemble/orchestras feature a solo performance that imparts their own style of imagination and creativity and still maintains the harmonic integrity and rhythm of the original melody.   Through receptive sensitivity the soloist features their self-expressive performances to the audience. The complex harmony is only possible through playing from a collective score that inspires free musical expression and interacting with one another.  The musicians are playing without obstacles or conflict creating a sense of harmony and free style that benefits the greater good of the whole.  There is a sense of self-actualization through a loss of self in the song. The achievement in this case, the song, acts as an internal and interactive transformation between the musicians and the audience.

Jazz Portrait of Thelonious Monk

Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including “Epistrophy“, “‘Round Midnight“, “Blue Monk”, “Straight, No Chaser” and “Well, You Needn’t“. Monk is the second-most recorded jazz composer wrote about 70. His compositions and improvisations are full of dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists, and are consistent with Monk’s unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations. Since this was not a style universally appreciated poet and jazz critic Philip Larkin dismissed Monk as ‘the elephant on the keyboard’. Monk’s manner was idiosyncratic. Visually, he was renowned for his distinctive style in suits, hats and sunglasses. At times, Monk while the other musicians in the band continued playing, would stop, stand up from the keyboard and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano. Notably, Monk was one of five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of Time.

David Thomson from the Los Angeles Times proclaimed Geoff Dyer. who wrote “But Beautiful:  A Book About JazzMay be the best book ever written about jazz”,  wrote a passage on Monk that I must say gave me a little insight into what it was like living with my father and living in the jazz world.  But like jazz, it speaks more about the man as an individual, their idiosyncrasies, their uniqueness.  Here is an excerpt from his book that gives a good example of Monk.  Mr. Dyer wrote:

“He kept all his music very close to him, didn’t like other people seeing it, he kept everything close to him.  When he went out he liked to be wrapped up in a coat—winter was his time—and he preferred not to stray too far.  At the studio he’d have his music in a little book, reluctant to let other people see it….”

Here is a video of Monk performing “Epistrophy” so you can get a feel for his portrait.

This is one example of jazz as metaphor and the meaning of the ‘good life’ where the privilege of a lifetime is indeed to be who you are. How about you!  What shade is your life? How do you express yourself?  As always, I promise to give more…Peace & Love Out!  JBC 😎 & >3

live laugh and love

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