As saxophonists, we often find ourselves having to deal with the music of certain players as a way of addressing certain sound and technical issues. Alto players have to deal with Johnny Hodges and Charlie Parker; tenor players, Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane, and with soprano players, it's Steve Lacy and Thelonious Monk.
Lacy described Monk's music as ideal for the soprano saxophone: ''Not too high, not too low, not easy, not at all overplayed and most of all, full of interesting technical problems.''
This would explain why he spent a large portion of his 50 year career exploring Monk's music. Even though Lacy only performed with him for a few years, his impact was everlasting.
Following Lacy's lead, I took the daring leap and made Monk's music the focus of my first solo CD, Monk Abstractions. While recording this CD, I sometimes had to nudge msyelf just to take a solo. Just playing the melody of one of Monk's tunes felt like a statement within itself.
Upon hearing my recording, producer and trumpeter Don Sickler asked me to perform as a part of the Thelonious Monk 90th Birthday Celebration at the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom. It was very exciting to play for that many people, not to mention conversing with my comedic hero, Bill Cosby.
Here's a clip from that memorable evening.
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