‘Round Midnight

Upon hearing the music of Thelonious Monk for the first time, one usually has a very visceral reaction.  Most either like it or not, while others come to accept his artisty through an acquired taste.   It certainly is different to the ear, but filled with plenty emotion and humor.  Throughout the years there have been many times where I have found myself fascinated with his thought process and genius.  

Last night I had a chance to reflect on Monk’s genius while in a conversation with a young pianist attempting to master ‘Round Midnight and eager to perform it at a jam session after a not so successful attempt at an earlier date.  During our conversation, I shared a conversation that I had with Larry Gales many years ago who had been a long-time bassist with Monk.  I asked Larry about the chord changes to ‘Round Midnight and he responded quickly and asked me ‘what set’?   I asked for clarification and he relayed to me that Monk was always tweaking the tune in performance and he had to  listen intently and watch his left hand to follow what alteration was being made to the tune in the moment.  I shared with the young pianist to find the solo piano version of the tune to check out what could be a good set of changes to use in performance as he gained a better understanding of the tune.

I listened to that recording today and was left with a pleasant smile and reflection of Larry and his informal lesson.  The artist is always evolving and never rests on his or her laurels.   Always continue to grow and experiment, even if it leaves you feeling uncomfortable with exploring new territory.