For week 4 of the Creativity Challenge, (and my birthday) I am proud to release this version of “‘Round About Midnight” with Bob Mocarsky on the Steinway and myself on Lucky the flugelhorn. This is a tune I have been trying to play for years, but a real understanding of this complicated tune written by Thelonius Monk has long eluded me. For this performance I think I almost get it right and I consider this to be my best jazz track to date. My jazz playing has always felt like years of development behind my classical playing but after doing a lot of thinking and working on life and music and creativity I think the jazz side of me is catching up.
I first heard this song from listening to my first jazz trumpet idol Miles Davis, who made this tune one of signature tunes. I loved Mile’s use of space and his power of self expression and I try to emulate some of that in this version. I also loved reading Miles’ autobiography, which is my second favorite book about music after Victor Wooten’s The Music Lesson. In his book Miles has some interesting things to say about Thelonious Monk and this tune:
Bird introduced me to Thelonious Monk. His use of space in his solos and his manipulation of funny-sounding chord progressions just knocked me out, fucked me up. I said, “Damn, what is this motherfucker doing?” Monk’s use of space had a big influence on the way I played solos after I heard him…
I really liked Monk’s tune, “‘Round Midnight,” and I wanted to learn how to play it. So I used to ask him every night after I got through playing it, “Monk, how did I play it tonight?” And he’d say, looking all serious, “You didn’t play it right.” The next night, the same thing and the next and the next and the next. This went on for a while.
“That ain’t the way to play it,” he would say, sometimes with an evil, exasperated look on his face. Then, one night, I asked him and he said, “Yeah, that’s the way you play it.”
Man, that made me happier than a motherfucker, happier than a pig in shit. I’d gotten the sound down. It was one of the hardest. ” ‘Round Midnight” was very difficult because it had a complex melody and you had to hang it together. You had to play it so you could hear the chords and changes and also hear the tops; it was just one of those tunes that you had to hear. It wasn’t like a regular eight-bar melody or motif and it stopped, like in a minor key. It’s a hard tune to learn and remember. I can still play it, but I don’t like to do it too much now, except maybe when I’m practicing, alone.
This song is about looking out of the window at night, wondering what it’s all about, watching the rain come down outside and wondering what someone you care about is doing somewhere else. I hope you enjoy our version. It’s best to listen to this one late at night when you are alone and maybe feeling a little bit blue.