1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 104

Blue Monk, by Thelonious Monk
Suggested by Simon Rodway

On Amazon Music, there are multiple albums called Blue Monk. Most of them are by Thelonious Monk.

On Spotify, there are even more albums called Blue Monk. Yet none of them are by Thelonious Monk.

On Wiki, Thelonious Monk’s discography has no albums called Blue Monk. But there is a song called Blue Monk.

Bloody Jazz musicians, man. They don’t even follow convention when naming the damn albums.

Liking Jazz is binary. One or Zero. You either eschew all knowledge of such lawless frippery, or you get the words “I LOVE JAZZ” tattooed on your chin. It’s an intensely gated community, with gun towers and guards, and dogs barking offkey and out of time. You can’t admit to liking “a bit” of Jazz, because doing so will either see you ejected from the airlock in disgrace or eagerly barraged by stalwart jazz historians seeking to assimilate you into the Collective through an unforgiving stream of vomited factual toss.

The whole scene is full of nodding heads and puckered mouths. Being forced to listen isn’t enough; you’ll be forced to appreciate too, damnit. “Listen to this bit,” they’ll say, as someone throws a xylophone down a lift shaft. You’ll smile at a nice sound, but they’ll shout “Wait! Not that bit. This bit.” Then – PARP! SKADDELLY PAH-POH! – a trumpet will collapse in on itself. “Wasn’t that amazing!” they’ll bark at your confused face. “Wasn’t it? It was! Wasn’t it? Please VALIDATE MY OPINION.”

Jazz is a lounge sound, but it’s background sound that refuses to remain there. Blue Monk is no different, offering up some attractive arrangements of piano and horn that could be the accompaniment to a gentle tea or an evening cocktail, but in a parallel universe where the tea is hot lava and the cocktail is a live crab on a stick. The arrangements are soulful and intricate, but slightly disquieting and discordant. You can let it wash over you and appreciate the flow, but at the core of it there’s a sense that someone, somewhere is laughing at you as they slap their instruments at random.

My two songs of note on this particular Blue Monk are the title track Blue Monk itself, and the paired back piano piece I Surrender Dear. It’s this solitary piano that brings me the most pleasure, but I still feel a little conned. When Les Dawson played the wrong notes, at least he had the grace to be funny.

Blue Monk gets a confusing 5/10 from me. I do like the noise, but the weight of the genre puts me off before I even begin. It’s music you can listen to incorrectly, and I’ve no desire to do the revision to pass this final exam.

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