Everything grey under this morning’s weather and the Metro’s vapoured windows – I want to call them portholes – don’t help.
It starts up like some tea-dance that your Grandma might have liked, but how deceptive appearances can be. Off goes Monk, wrong-footing our expectations (and, at times, the bassist’s too). He soon tires of the accompanist’s vamp and topples over into his own thing: wonderment at what a piano offers. He slows and speeds and slithers across and over and then again against the beat, with trickles and chordings that don’t quite replicate what’s in the beginner’s guide.
The band must be his biggest, his first fans – these are all guys who can play. I mean, John Coltrane? None can do Monk’s thing but they all want to be close to him. They protect Monk from the wider world by playing closer to what the latter – what we – expect. This little bodyguard forms a circle round him, within which he is free to do his thing for his own satisfaction. It’s as though Monk were in but not of this world.
Coltrane goes off on one that is a beauty but it’s not how Monk would have taken it. Coltrane’s a master. Monk is simply Monk. He plays the sound of surprise, and is, perhaps, the first to be surprised at what happens between him and this piano.
The piece is ‘Sweet & lovely’. Need I say more?