Friday, September 10, 2010



The Thelonious Monk tune entitled "Misterioso" was originally recorded at the "Five Spot" in New York City in 1958. The personnel include Johnny Griffin (tenor saxophone), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass) and Roy Haynes (drums). The version I played in class is listed below, and was recorded in 1964. The way Monk moves diatonic sixth intervals ascending and/or descending over a twelve-bar blues in this composition sounds refreshing and lends itself to the element of call and response, a characteristic element in African American music.

The original liner notes written by Orrin Keepnews were helpful in learning a bit about the jazz scene in New York at that time. He says that in 1958, there was a stronger demand by fans and critics for groups such as the John Coltrane quintet, even though Monk's music was thriving at this time, with this recording being an example.

Recordings/Arrangements of “Misterioso”

Thelonious Monk
Released in 1964 on "Columbia" Records.
Larry Gales-bass
Ben Riley-drums

Bill Frisell: Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian
Released in 2006 on "Nonesuch" Records

Bill Frisell's version of "Misterioso" fuses country/folk/Americana with jazz and is inspiring, simply because it is a successful fusion. It seems as though many extremely competent musicians attempt to create fusions at one point or another, and are not always successful in their authenticity. It is clear that Bill Frisell is very committed to this kind of fusion, not just as a temporary experiment, but as a life long exploration.

Kronos Quartet and Ron Carter: Monk Suite: Kronos Quartet Plays the Music of Thelonious Monk
Released in 2004 for "SLG, LLC".

In my opinion, this "Kronos Quartet" version of "Misterioso" is not a successful fusion of styles. A new or fresh perspective on the tune is not evident, at least not to me. There seems to be a risk involved in this kind of fusion, even when you're as dedicated to it as somebody like Bill Frisell, who has received criticism on the matter in the past. 

Kartet: "The Bay Window".
Released in 2007 for "Songline" Records.

This version of "Misterioso" uses the melody as an ostinato bass line, while a very angular non repetitive horn melody is superimposed on top. This arrangement is very thoughtful and creative, harmonically and rhythmically.

Jean-Michel Pilc: Live at Iridium, New York
Released in 2005 for "Dreyfus Jazz".
Thomas Bramerie-bass
Mark Mondesir-drums

This arrangement of "Misterioso" was worth including because it makes us reconsider our idea of dissonance harmonically and rhythmically, as so many great pieces do.

Annotated Bibliography


Monk, Thelonious. "Misterioso." On The Essential Thelonious Monk. Columbia. 1964. iTunes.

Monk, Thelonious. "Misterioso." On Live at the Five Spot. Columbia. 1958. Compact Disc.

Kronos Quartet and Ron Carter. "Misterioso." On Monk Suite: Kronos Quartet Plays Music of Thelonious Monk. SLG, LLC. 2004. iTunes.

Frisell, Bill. "Misterioso." On Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian. Nonesuch. 2006. iTunes.

Kartet. "Misterioso." On The Bay Window. Songline. 2007. iTunes.

Pilc, Jean-Michel. "Misterioso." On Live at Iridium. Dreyfus Jazz. 2005. iTunes.
Journal and Online articles

Porter, Lewis. "Some Problems in Jazz Research." Black Music Research Journal 8, no. 2 (1988): 195-206.

Lewis Porter is the founder of the only graduate jazz research program in the United States at Rutgers University in New Jersey. This article is helpful for developing a greater understanding of problems that exist in doing research in the field of jazz, in that it offers examples in past and present contexts. This essay is also very helpful in giving examples of criteria that demonstrate what constitutes an authoritative source in the field of jazz research.  "One should consult newspapers, magazines, oral histories, booking agents, record company files, itineraries, private journals, discographies, advertisements, concert flyers, issued recordings, and private tapes". (Porter, 203)

Lewis Porter's essay entitled "Some Problems in Jazz Research" begins by explaining that research in the field of jazz was done mostly by non academics at first, and that it is now growing as universities have been seeking more and more jazz scholars. Porter states that most of the research has been done by people who are neither musicians nor academics. He uses the jazz biography as an example of unreliable research based on the fact that many of them have relayed information that is inaccurate or exaggerated.  This quote is insightful in explaining one of the fundamental problems in jazz research.  "Obviously, there are many types of research-discographical, bibliographical, analytical, historical, interpretive--all of which overlap in ways that many researchers fail to grasp, and that failure weakens the accuracy of their work" (Porter, 196).  Porter goes on to give many examples as to how "lay researchers" have been active in the area of oral history, but tend to perpetuate incorrect information by accepting things as fact too easily, as in the context of an interview with a musician who may have forgotten which year an event may have taken place. (Porter, 196) Porter also mentions the problems of jazz critique being considered jazz research, as well as classic examples of potentially subconscious racism on behalf of white writers failing to see things from a black viewpoint. (Porter, 198)

Catalano, Nick. "" November 3rd 2003. (accessed December 5th 2009).

 The article "Racism in Jazz: Writing and Reporting", by Nick Catalano gives another example of this topic, mentioning some of the accusations of racism made in the field of jazz writing today.

"The Independent Ear." Available from Internet; accessed 5 December 2009.

African American writer and poet A.B. Spellman gives his perspective on white writers, jazz and the racism that exists. It was helpful to hear another account and opinion on this subject by an African American writer.

Rojas, Fabio. "The Art of Jazz Research." (accessed 5 December 2009).

This is a Lewis Porter interview by Fabio Rojas. After reading Porter's article "Some Problems in Jazz Research", it was interesting to hear his responses in a more opinionated context that focuses more closely on the details of his life and experience in jazz.

Darter, Tom. "" Available from Internet; accessed 5 December 2009.

"Monk Suite."- Kronos Quartet plays music of Thelonious Monk. Arranged and adapted by Tom Darter. This article was helpful in learning more about the Kronos Quartet, and the details that went into putting this project together.

 This article provides commentary on each song from the album "Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian". The topic of Frisell's jazz roots/background in contrast with his country/folk/Americana influences in his music are discussed. This article not only provides insight into Frisell's approach, but also is relevant in considering what may be possible in terms of what constitutes an authoritative version of a piece within this genre. 

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