from: Mysterious Thelonius
written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
Orchard Books, 1997
Jazz is mysterious. I used to think it was either love it or hate it. That was before. When I tried to listen. I’ve since learned a little about jazz. It washes over you, if you let it.
I grew up on classical music. My piano lessons included some easy Mozart, Saint-Saens’s “Swan” from Carnival of the Animals, and selections from the three “Bs” as my elementary piano book called Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. I also learned some Broadway tunes. My dad sometimes sang along and sometimes brought out his banjo and strummed along to “On the Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady. Mom liked “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins. She didn’t sing along.
My favorite was Chopin. Still is. I never really got the hang of playing his music, but I love to listen to it.
When we were young, Daddy brought home a hi-fi. It was stereo, of course. He also brought a couple of 45’s. Perry Como’s “Round and Round,,” “Catch a Falling Star,” and an Alvin and the Chipmunks album. Boy! did we play and play and play those records.
Being a teenager meant Rotten Roll, Mom’s term. My sister and I had transistor radios. Mine was pink. We were allowed to bring them along on car rides, if we kept the volume down.
But I loved Simon and Garfunkel. I spent my baby-sitting money on their albums that I played on that same hi-fi. I’d sit at my desk in my room and play those songs till I knew all of them by heart. Really. I even wrote out the lyrics in a notebook.
My experience taught me to be an active listener. I’d anticipate where the melody was going and how it would get there. I looked for patterns in the rhythms. I even studied Music Theory.
But none of that prepared me for jazz. Jazz is improvisational. Jazz sings its own melodies. Jazz builds its own rhythms.
Thelonius Monk would have been 100 years old today. He is the second most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington. Monk influenced Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis.
Jazz, a slang term from 1860, means pep or energy. But, kick off your shoes, fix a cold drink (alcoholic or not), find a soft seat, and let the sounds wash over you. No activity required!
Thelonious Monk - Underground (HD FULL ALBUM) --stay curious!