As a big Miles Davis fan, my first exposure to Thelonious Monk came from listening to a recording of “Straight, No Chaser” by Davis’s sextet’s 1958 performance in Newport, Rhode Island. The Miles & Monk record was one of the first I picked up in college; I’ve been hooked ever since. His music puts me at ease and seems to translate the chaos of the world into something funny and sassy—he also seems to be imploring you to laugh at your problems in a way that takes a lot of pressure off. So naturally, Monk Festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center is always on my agenda.
Jazz at Lincoln Center celebrates Monk’s centennial with 14 opportunities to hear the full spectrum of his music and the impact it has had on artists across borders and generations, from Thursday, June 1, through Sunday, June 4. Whether you’re new to jazz or a lifelong fan, this fest presents some of the crucial ABC’s of this music in four distinct performances you can tailor to your personality.
For the global and glamorous out there, I recommend “World of Monk,” with Wynton Marsalis leading the JALC Orchestra in new arrangements of Monk’s music, along with special international guests including Brazilian bandolin badass Hamilton de Holanda and—an artist I am personally dying to see with this band—Pakistan’s own Baqir Abbas on flute. Be sure to get your intellectual ya-yas out at the preconcert talk at 7 p.m. each night.
Even better, we are giving away a pair of tickets (along with a postshow meet and greet, yearlong membership to Jazz at Lincoln Center, and an extended membership to WSWD?!) to the June 2 show to one lucky winner who becomes a member of What Should You Do?!. We are selling these exclusive ticket packages, too, in case you aren’t feeling lucky.
For aural adrenaline junkies, head over to the Appel Room for “’Round Midnight,” named after one of Monk’s most beloved tunes, which he wrote at age 18. Two young virtuosos, Sullivan Fortner of New Orleans and 13-year-old Indonesian jazz prodigy Joey Alexander, have received critical acclaim for their variations on Monk’s music, and in this show—running June 2 and 3—both pianists will lead their own trios in a performance that’s bound to have you at the edge of your seat.
As for the hipsters among you, looking for a sultry and sassy speakeasy situation, get yourself to Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. The 24-year-old Gabe Schnider (aka one-third the reason why I have begun to actually enjoy jazz guitar) will be gliding his way through Monk in “Light Blue” on June 1 with some of my favorite young artists on the scene, including the baddest—meaning “good” in jazz talk—trumpeter the genre has seen in a while, Adam O’Farrill; South African singer Vuyo Sotashe (whose speaking voice alone is wildly euphonious); and bassist Russell Hall, who will then take over the Dizzy’s run with his band, June 2 to 4.
Thelonious Monk is one of a few people said to have penned the famous words “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” but no one would dispute that he can claim a title as one of the most creative (and dapper) composers of the 20th century. As the second-most recorded jazz artist after Duke Ellington, Monk propelled the evolution of jazz with his cheeky melodies and rhythms that kept everyone on their feet, either as dancers or fellow musicians trying to keep up with his genius. We invite you to join us at Jazz at Lincoln Center for its annual celebration of his work, Monk Fest.
See the World of Monk concert featuring Wynton Marsalis with the JALC Orchestra with our exclusive ticket package.
One ticket to the World of Monk concert on Friday, June 2
An invite to a special preconcert reception, including tastings from local restaurants and an open bar
Dinner or postshow cocktails reservation
Hotel reservation (if needed)
Access to Thursday night’s sound check
Yearlong membership to Jazz at Lincoln Center
A complimentary month of What Should We Do?! service.