McIntire Department of Music

On Saturday November 17th, the Free Bridge Quintet will perform the music of the legendary jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk at 8:00pm in Old Cabell Hall Auditorium.

Thelonious Sphere (as in "not square") Monk remains, even twenty five years after his death, one of the most original voices in jazz history. His unique approach to the piano makes his playing instantly recognizable to even the most casual jazz fan. Though now recognized as a pioneering, if eccentric, genius, Monk was generally dismissed by the music critics of the late 1940's and early 50's as a charlatan. Even some of his fellow musicians were hostile to his melodic dissonance and quirky compositions. Monk eschewed his contemporaries' obsession with virtuosity for virtuosity's sake. For the first-time listener, a Monk piano solo might seem to contain an unusual amount of open space and and "wrong" notes. Upon further listening, though, it becomes apparent that Monk has created his own personal vocabulary that makes perfect sense in his unique musical world. To the early "squares" who didn't get what Monk was doing, he replied, "You know, anybody can play a composition and use far-out chords and make it sound wrong. Itís making it sound right thatís not easy."

Monk's contribution as a composer is his true legacy to subsequent generations of jazz musicians. As Free Bridge bassist Peter Spaar put it, "As a composer, Monk was to the Bop generation what Duke Ellington was to the Swing era." His body of work has become one of the main touchstones for modern jazz musicians. While many of Monk's tunes sound simple, even childlike, to the casual listener, they can be devilishly difficult to play and present a constant challenge to the improvising musician. As Spaar put it, "his tunes don't necessarily follow the standard harmonic formulas or structural conventions of 'standards'. That's why his compositions are some of the most difficult to improv ise over, Your usual playbook of 'licks' don't tend to work on Monk tunes".

Nonetheless, the quintet will give it their best shot on such tunes as "Brilliant Corners", "Bye Ya", "Criss-Cross", and many more. Avid Monk fans might note the absence of some of Monk's greatest hits such as "Round Midnight" or "Straight, No Chaser". Spaar explains, "We want to highlight the extent of his creative output. So many great tunes! It's impossible to get them all into one concert. The hardest thing for us was to decide which tunes NOT to play. As it is, we're keeping our improvising to a minimum so we can squeeze in as many as possible."

Come hear for yourself just how many tunes they can "sqeeze in". Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for students and 5 ARTS$ for U.Va. students and are available at the Old Cabell Hall Box Office.

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Maintained By McIntire Department of Music
Last Modified: Monday, 28-Jul-2008 23:28:31 EDT
112 Old Cabell Hall, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903
Departmental Information: (434) 924-3052
Cabell Hall Box Office: (434) 924-3984