Reviews & Opinions

T. MONK'S ADVICE (1960)

Basil RonzittiPart of Basil Ronzitti's recollections from his years in the First Army Band at Governor's Island just outside NYC included the following.  Ed.

"One of the Band members was a Sgt. Richards, who had played with Cannonball Adderly and a number of other great jazz musicians, but who opted to stay in the service because he had a family the the benefits and job security were good.

"Sgt. Richards had played and hung out with Thelonious Monk, who wrote down the following priceless pieces of advice: (Emphasis and caps are in the original.)



Thelonious Monk at Minton'sJUST BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT A DRUMMER DOESN'T MEAN THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO KEEP TIME.

PAT YOUR FOOT AND SING THE MELODY IN YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU PLAY.  

STOP PLAYING ALL THAT BULLSHIT, THOSE WIERD NOTES, PLAY THE MELODY!

MAKE THE DRUMMER SOUND GOOD.

DISCRIMINATION IS IMPORTANT.

YOU'VE GOT TO DIG IT, TO DIG IT, YOU DIG?  ALL REET!

IT MUST BE ALWAYS NIGHT, OTHERWISE THEY WOULDN'T NEED THE LIGHTS.

LET'S LIFT THE BANDSTAND!!  AVOID THE HECKLERS.

DON'T PLAY THE PIANO PART.  i'M PLAYING THAT.  DON'T LISTEN TO ME, I'M SUPPOSED TO BE LISTENING TO YOU!

THE INSIDE OF THE TUNE (THE BRIDGE) IS THE PART THAT MAKES THE OUTSIDE SOUND GOOD.

DON'T PLAY EVERYTHING (OR EVERY TIME); LET SOME THINGS GO BY.  SOME MUSIC JUST IMAGINED.  WHAT YOU DON'T PLAY CAN BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN WHAT YOU DO PLAY.

ALWAYS LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE.

A NOTE CAN BE SMALL AS A PIN OR BIG AS THE WORLD, IT DEPENDS ON YOUR IMAGINATION.

STAY IN SHAPE!  SOMETIMES A MUSICIAN WAITS FOR A GIG AND WHEN IT COME, HE'S OUT OF SHAPE & CAN'T MAKE IT.

WHEN YOU'RE SWINGING, SWING SOME MORE!

WHAT SHOULD WE WEAR TONIGHT?  SHARP AS POSSIBLE!.

DON'T SOUND ANYBODY FOR A GIG, JUST BE ON THE SCENE

THESE PIECES WERE WRITTEN SO AS TO HAVE SOMETHING TO PLAY, & TO GET CATS INTERESTED  ENOUGH TO COME TO REHEARSALS.

(TO A DRUMMER WHO DIDN'T WANT TO SOLO):YOU'VE GOT IT!  IF YOU DON'T WANT TO PLAY, TELL A JOKE, OR DANCE, BUT IN ANY CASE, YOU GOT IT

WHATEVER YOU THINK CAN'T BE DONE, SOMEBODY WILL COME ALONG AND DO IT.

A GENIUS IS THE ONE MOST LIKE HIMSELF.

THEY TRIED TO GET ME TO HATE WHITE PEOPLE, BUT SOMEONE WOULD ALWAYS COME ALONG & SPOIL IT.

(Ed. Note: Although Monk is often associated with Parker and Gillespie and the birth of bebop, Monk and Coltrane also had a deep respect for each other.  Monk helped nurture Coltrane back onto the scene after Coltrane kicked his heroin habit.  The two played a historic concert at Carnegie Hall, with Monk's rhythm section, and playing Monk's tunes, in 1957.  The tune in the excerpt below is Monk's "Bye' Ya."

Basil Ronzitti
March 2, 2016