I wonder if there would be more room to just let Thelonious Monk be today? Some of us live in a society and culture that works very hard at ideals of inclusion, which too often allows for the co-option purporting many of those reached-for liberties. What if you could just be different, and have that difference counted as contributory, instead of outlying or bucking an artificial construct of the norm? What if?
Monk’s artistry is all about that “what if” question. Why does playfulness and wit sometimes result in a head shaking or a finger wag? What if those elements could just be as strong and sweetly accepted as so much other stuff that gets in without a question asked?
His playing was described as complex and dissonant. Dissonant: What’s not to love about that word? It immediately sets apart and demands listening. You cannot help but to hear the dissonance. Harmony flows, supports, directs, and cradles; dissonance demands a kind of trip over attention. When the two form side by side, the demand plays with and tickles the flow. It is very much a jazz thing. Monk played with the flow. Dissonance is jazz in America’s flow. Thelonious Monk was a current maker in the flow of jazz., and in that flow, he excited the current.