Monday, April 22, 2013

T.S. Monk on the Current State of Jazz

There is a fairly recent interview with T.S. Monk (son and namesake of Thelonious Sphere Monk) currently available on the DownBeat magazine website. It's well worth a read for anyone interested in T.S. Monk's first hand accounts of his father, and a number of other things, including his opinions on the advent of university jazz faculties in the 1960s, their curriculum, the roots of jazz, and the necessary transmission of the artform from generation to generation via oral tradition. At the very end, he offered this assessment of our current situation--one that I too have felt, despite the shrivelling markets and monetary compensation for the jazz artist:

[Jazz] is the most wonderful music... the most human music of all time. It will never go anywhere unless human beings stop desiring to be individuals. And that’s not going to happen. So, we are healthier now, despite marketplaces and all that stuff. As an art form, we are healthier now than we have ever been.

The importance of jazz can never be quantified in economic terms or mere popularity. T.S.Monk's account of his childhood, growing up as the son of one of the greatest of all musical geniuses, demonstrates the importance of community, family, and mutual support to the music. Relationships and accountability to each other are central: it is wonderful to read them so well expressed by his son. It's no wonder Thelonious Monk's music exudes this all of this and more.

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