Six Monk’s Compositions (1987)
Black Saint : 1988
AB, alto sax; Mal Waldron, piano; Buell Neidlinger, bass; Bill Osborne, drums.
Many thanks to everyone who took part in our two contests last week. There were an impressive number of correct guesses for our blindfold test — or at least partly correct. The song was Braxton’s cover of Thelonious Monk’s “Skippy,” from the album above. (In the end, there were far more Braxton guesses than Monk guesses.) Congratulations are due to…
Steve Trichka, of Endwell, New York, USA.
As a bonus, a favorite movie of Steve’s: The Princess Bride (“I guess I’m a sucker for a good sword fight.”)
As for our contest of pure chance, the winning number was 34. The winner picked the number right on the nose. Nice work. Congratulations to…
Chris Kennedy, of San Francisco, California, USA
A favorite movie of Chris’s: “Let’s say Werkmeister Harmonies by Bela Tarr, for the moment.”
Both of our lucky winners will receive CD copies of David S. Ware’s Renunciation and William Parker and Hamid Drake’s Summer Snow - courtesy of the fine folks at Aum Fidelity. Again, many thanks to all entrants, and if lady luck did not shine on you this month, we invite you to please do try again next time.
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Now that the collective blindfold has been removed, here is another track from Six Monk’s Compositions, along with a replay of “Skippy” for those too skittish to put on the blindfold.
No accident that folks like Cecil Taylor and John Zorn consider Monk to be an avant garde composer, and no surprise that Braxton would want to pay tribute to his impressive legacy. In his heydey, Monk was preceived as some kind of mad scientist of music. The same is true of Braxton, who took things a step further by infamously titling some of his compositions with some ornate equations.
Those number and letter diagrams earned Braxton an unfair reputation for being an arid egghead who produced unapproachably daunting music. The pipe probably didn’t help, either. So marvel at how easy these exceptional versions of Monk’s tunes go down. And you can’t miss the passion, the sense of compulsion and urgency the group invests in the music.
In the liner notes for Six Monk’s, Art Lange highlights a Bill Evans quote about Monk; it easily applies to Mr. Braxton:
Make no mistake. This man knows exactly what he is doing in a theoretical way – organized, more than likely, in a personal terminology, but strongly organized nevertheless. We can be further grateful to him for combining aptitude, insight, drive, compassion, fantasy, and whatever else makes the total artist, and we should also be grateful for such direct speech in an age of insurmountable conformist pleasures.
So, for your listening pleasure, the uncommon pleasures of two nonconformists working together across time.