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October 10

Drunkard Gear

It’s Thelonious Monk’s birthday. Born in 1917, Monk’s improvisational, some would say eccentric, work as a be-bop pianist and composer changed the DNA of jazz forever. So, did Thelonious like to knock them back? How could the composer of the jazz standard “Straight, No Chaser” not knock them back? Monk’s philosophy was, if there was booze around, and since he worked mostly in nightclubs there always was, he wanted to drink it. He also didn’t tolerate any light drinking in his band. If they tried to tread lightly around the bar, Monk would say, “You call yourself a jazz player?” then put them on a steady diet of double gins. Gin was Monk’s drink. True story: Monk was sometimes criticized for getting loaded during his big auditorium performances, but his counter was that the audience was there to have a good time, so why shouldn’t he be allowed to have a good time too? Why did it have to be a one-sided thing? That just seemed selfish to him. He wanted everyone to have a good time, including and particularly himself.

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