Blesok no. 114-115, July-August, 2017
Thelonious Monk and the Last Days
Translated to English: Elizabeta Bakovska
The Stars Are Different
Sometimes the road is the best meditation – travels that never stop, kilometres, two hundred kilometres per hour and landscapes that change so fast that you can not even notice them. The mid surrenders, the mid becomes a line that fades away in the middle of the road. Quiet enough for the memory to become foggy.
This mind has found the meditation on the terrace. The terrace itself is its definition. There I have built a viewpoint. If I look well, I can see what I need. From the terrace, I manage to feel your place and everything that I need is silence and real music.
In your corner, where there used to be a street, there is only Ben Allison’s contrabass. The dilemmas of the seasons have turned it into a silver thing that shines. The stars look different when you look at them from this place. Especially if you do this sometime between 3:30 and 4:15 AM.
It’s time to end or bark at ballads, trying to write a better one than the one that I wrote long ago, at the time when I did not compete. At the time when death competed with the best of us.
Ballad of Joe Buck - Ben Allison
The Meditation of the Terrace
Thelonious Sphere Monk stepped on my terrace as if going out to the stage. Everything is here: his beret, his attitude and his bop glasses. The misbelief mixed with the intoxicating smoke, as his steps gradually transformed into a slow dance. Just as he would leave the piano to see and hear his band better and dance to the solo just being performed by John Coltrane. Or Miles Davis. Or Sonny Rollins. Miles never felt comfortable at these moments.
But Coltrane did. He enjoyed and learned from Monk. I quote these words as a testimony: “Working with Monk has brought me closer to a music architect of highest rank. I felt that I was learning in every possible way next to him – with my senses, theoretically, technically. I would talk to Monk about music problems, and he would only sit at the piano and show me the answers by playing them. I could watch him play and get the answers to the things that I wanted to know. I also had the chance to witness so many things that I never even knew existed.”
It is possible that he would sit at the piano and play what followed, but I have no piano. There is nothing else but lie down in the hammock and take over this night. He does not hesitate. Thelonious Monk is the host of the night at my terrace. Let him manage the meditations and finish what has started with the turns of his “Underground” album. And the numbers that I have prepared.
Thelonious Monk - Underground
Around midnight I start to prepare my first and only number for the day. I wait for everything to calm down and the beasts take control of the silence and I start to roll. I am a good example of denying the theory that practice develops skills. Trying, I think of theories.
There is a theory that Thelonious Monk composed the first version of the song “Round Midnight” in 1936. It was a small warmup before placing the foundations of bebop – coming up with a song that started its endless travel under the name of “Grand Finale”. He was nineteen years old.
“Sometimes your advantage is exactly that the people think you’re crazy” – he said and he showed what I held between my fingers. I inhaled as if it was my last one and I offered it to him.
Kerouac assumed, but I am certain – it was Monk, nobody else, it was him passing by the tailor shop at 42nd street, only couple of years before World War II, when he heard in the loudspeaker of his mind the real mistakes of the jazz until then and using them, he created bebop. Others tried to claim the tribute for this, and Monk, this wonderful crazy Thelonious did not care, he only continued to think and compose. There was so much left to discover.
Jack Kerouac ~ American Haikus - Peter Gullerud ~ Sketches
Thelonious looks at me as if he hears what I think, he puffs and says: “If you ask me, create the way you think you should. Don’t do what the audience expects. Play what you want, and let the audience get involved in what you do – even if the audience needs fifteen, twenty years for such a thing.”
I want Sonny Rollins to also appear at the terrace. Maybe I say such a thing, which makes no difference to Thelonious. Their joint performances and ancient flame made me wish for the impossible. My tongue is heavy and disobedient. It has developed its own algorithms, the secrets that it resolves are sweeter and sweeter.
I have nevertheless given you up. It’s not fun anymore. I feel stripped and liberating for the first time. The oral muses have set the boundaries. We grew out of the boundaries. I hope that I would know to return sometimes and that I would not forget. The concept of yearning does not suit me anymore, and I will never succeed in what is expected from me. It is time to disappear and it smells like changes. The truth is old and clear enough, it shines like corners of our awareness, from the time when we invented passages and roads rather than walls. Where there used to be a street.
Leonard Cohen / Sonny Rollins