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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Portrait of the Artist as a Checkout Boy

Paying homage to Thelonious Monk in the sleevenotes to House on Hill, Brad Mehldau reproduces the score of Monk's 'Ecstasy' (click to enlarge). As you can see, it looks like someone sitting by a river tossing in the loose change in his pocket.

It reminded me of another Monk track, or version of a Monk track (since there are always so many): 'Misterioso', where, having introduced the melody Monk hands it over to the vibes player, but still chips in now and then with a G-flat here, a C-sharp there. It's the artist as checkout boy, watching the customer do all the hard work punting the groceries along while he sits back and zaps them with his laser gun every few seconds. Or, another comparison, it's like Rubens dropping in on his workshop assistants to check how the latest Madonna is coming along and doing the eyes before heading off for lunch.

Monk's last years were clouded by illness. He retreated into chronic aphasia and a strange addiction to getting up during his set and turning in counterclockwise circles for a long, long time. Personally, I blame the hats.

Oh, and Monk's middle name was Sphere.

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