The Kid Should See This

Thelonious Monk performs Epistrophy in Tokyo (1963)

Thelonious Monk, The High Priest of Bebop, performs Epistrophy in Tokyo, Japan on May 23, 1963, with his quartet: Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Butch Warren on bass, and Frankie Dunlop on drums. Epistrophy was co-written with Kenny Clarke:

A major innovator of the bebop style of drumming, [Clarke] pioneered the use of the Ride cymbal to keep time rather than the hi-hat, along with the use of the bass drum for irregular accents (“dropping bombs”).

KUVO.org explains that the word epistrophe “refers to a literary device in which a word or phrase is repeated at the end of successive clauses or sentences.” From The Atlantic:

Monk’s piano style, with its crunchy dissonances, forceful attack, open spaces, and off-kilter rhythms, has deeply imprinted itself both on pianists and on other instrumentalists and vocalists… Kamasi Washington, the music’s hottest young property, recently told The Root, “If you’re a jazz musician and you think you’re not influenced by Thelonious Monk, either you’re not a jazz musician or you are influenced by Thelonious Monk.”

thelonious monk
Partly named for the improvised sound of scat singing, as well as verbal indications of the music’s phrasing, the bebop jazz style grew out of the turbulent times of 1940s New York City. From Jazz in America:

Racism and segregation were rampant in America during the Swing and Bebop eras… African American jazz musicians became increasingly disenchanted with swing music the more they watched European Americans capitalize on it. They wanted to create their “own” music, a music that was not for dancing but for listening: a true African American art form…

Like the African American experience at the time, the music: was difficult; alluded to the blues; explored new directions and uncharted territory; was separate from the mainstream of America.

Listen and watch more jazz on TKSST, including Animated Sheet Music: Confirmation and Au Privave by Charlie Parker, another bebop innovator.

Updated video.

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