Thelonious Monk: Concert Report

Thelonious Monk was a jazz pianist and composer who performed in the Bebop style. Known for his eccentric performance style, Monk is a personification of formalized jazz.

In his concert, Monk made jazz a matter of solo. The saxophone is used as a primarily solo instrument, in conjunction with piano.

Thelonious Monk uses highly dissonant intervals, which sometimes makes the basic harmony more difficult to discern. His style is largely rhythmic, and he sometimes defines his melody using the circle of fifths progression, and uses a lot of repetition in the melody, with of course many transformations of the basic melody line.

When Monk stands up from the piano, he almost directs the ensemble in the most unique way, with a simple groove to the snare drum. He establishes a rhythm with his group both on and off the piano.

On the piano, he uses the bass in his left hand to take a minimalistic approach to chord progressions; he uses this approach to create freedom in his right hand. He uses the simple V-I progression with heavy ornamentation consistent with the bebop genre.

We start to see individual solo instrumentation in the drums; the drummer uses polyrhythm throughout the solo, although there are some moments where he returns to a more simplistic rhythm based on the kick drum, snare, and hi hats.

At some points in the concert, the piano and saxophone often establish the same melody line; this is interesting, because it establishes both instruments as the primary solo simultaneously. They are in a duet while the upright bass and drums provide the basis for the piece. Eventually, the saxophone takes the primary solo, and then switches with the piano. 

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