From the start, Thelonious Monk (1917–1982) was cocooned in myth. The pianist—revered for his seminal role in inventing bebop at Minton's Playhouse with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and others in the early 1940s—attracted bewildered adjectives from the press including "weird," "technically inadequate," "neurotic," and "from outer space." A profile published in 1948 cemented Monk's reputation as an eccentric genius by describing how a photo of Billie Holiday, reverently illuminated by a lone red light bulb, was glued to the ceiling in Monk's bedroom.
At the piano, Monk was an anti-virtuoso, jabbing the keyboard with flat, flexed-out hands, hitting clusters (which some thought were mistakes), and executing what is typically a pianist's pride—fast, flowing runs—in a folksy, almost careless fashion.
Today, musicians love Monk and his compositions, such as "Well, You Needn't," "Off Minor," "Evidence," and a dozen others. Even if you don't know the title, you've probably heard the opening chords of his signature ballad, "'Round Midnight." Fans also adore Monk's obsessive, stutter-step interpretations of popular songs, notably "Just a Gigolo," "April in Paris," and "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You."
Drummer and Monk obsessive Greg Williamson has convened pianist Bill Anschell and bassist Chris Symer for Monkstone Theocracy, a trio devoted to the music of Monk. Anschell, a seasoned pianist with a flair for trenchant rhythmic playing, feels a profound kinship to the music. "I've always loved Monk," he says. Anschell adds, "The music keeps you on track: You won't play a string of eight notes or swing-inspired melodies. Monk's music has a spirit of its own. Monk brings humor into jazz without making fun of what he's playing or being cheesy."
Monkstone Theocracy preach the gospel of Thelonious on Fri July 6 (Hiroshi's Restaurant, 2501 Eastlake Ave E, 726-4966), 7:30–10 pm, free, but plan to eat.
THURSDAY JULY 5
SCMS SUMMER FESTIVAL
I love and loathe the Seattle Chamber Music Society's annual summer festival; there, I've heard countless excellent performances of meat-and-potatoes chamber music and discovered a few obscurities, too. Yet I wish the SCMS would try out more new (or at least newish) music. I always complain, but still, every year I show up or tune in for free on KING 98.1 FM. On the program: Robert Schumann's Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, op. 80; Charles Ives's Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 with the fine pianist Jeremy Denk; and the Quintet for Strings in F Major, op. 88 by Brahms. The free half-hour recital at 7 pm features Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Cello. Through July 27; see seattlechambermusic.org for a full schedule. Lakeside School, 14050 First Ave NE, 283-8808, 8 pm, $8—$42.
SATURDAY JULY 7
The Northwest Sinfonietta backs this star cellist, who daringly solos in three concertos within a single concert: Haydn's Cello Concerto in D; the Cello Concerto in A minor by Robert Schumann; and Shostakovich's stunning Cello Concerto, composed in 1966 for Rostropovich. Also Sun July 8 at 3 pm. Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 800-838-3006, 7:30 pm, $25/$100.
Both born on July 7, trombonist Stuart Dempster and guitarist Dennis Rea honor 07/07/07, the date of star-crossed lovers in Chinese and Japanese mythology. Along with fellow Tanabata-born musicians, Rea and Dempster plan to "channel the spirits of past July 7 birthday musicians from Mahler to Pinetop Perkins." Fourth-floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding-scale donation.
SUNDAY JULY 8
JIM CUTLER JAZZ ORCHESTRA
This big band plays old chestnuts, new charts, and an experimental number or two. Watch closely and peer into the silent world of an orchestra: trumpeters in back whispering, inscrutable hand signals from the leader, and the appreciative looks from fellow musicians when someone unfurls a smokin' solo. Tula's, 2214 Second Ave, 443-4221, 8 pm—midnight, $5.
TUESDAY JULY 10
Moore, a formidable New York—based pianist, released a compelling album of music by Frederic Rzewski, Which Side Are You On? (Cantaloupe), several years ago. Here, she traverses two newish works for piano and reciting voice by Rzewski and Martin Bresnick. Rzewski's De Profundis (1992) includes spoken portions ("sorrow is the most sensitive of all created things") from the eponymous Oscar Wilde essay. In For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise (2001), the fiercely eclectic Bresnick sets texts from William Blake's illuminated manuscript published in 1818. Fourth-floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding-scale donation.
WEDNESDAY JULY 11
Composer Martin Bresnick discusses his work. Also, pianist Cristina Valdés and violinist Michael Lim perform Bresnick's Bird as Prophet. If you're a "comp spot" regular, do note the new (and temporary) location and price. Soundbridge Space at Benaroya, 200 University St, 634-0919, 7:30 pm, $5—$15 sliding-scale donation.