Saturday 15 August 2009

Chromatic crunches and mathematical modernism from Thelonius Monk via Hisae Nakajima

I picked up the video below thanks to Mr Craig of Flickering Too Long. It's a cover of Thelonious Monk's Ruby, My Dear by Hisae Nakajima.

I like a lot of things about this. The way the cycle-of-fifths-type chord sequence is so mussed up and clouded with chromaticism upon chromaticism – but still clearly discernable, anchored by the weighty bass.

It made me think of Bach (the almost mathematical intelligence of the writing – a factor whose appeal I can clearly see to one such as Mr Craig, rather an enviably mathematically intelligent musician himself) and, at the same time, Modernist literature like that of Eliot and Joyce (whom I'm always bloody well writing about, I know), in the sense of adding gnarled complexity and surprise to a superficially familiar outline.

Somebody will probably call that pretentious, won't they? That'd be imaginative of them.

I'm not even remotely knowledgable about jazz – so risk sounding like a pillock whenever I write about it (some would contest that I risk sounding like a pillock whenever I write about anything; others, no doubt, that to call this a 'risk' is hugely underplaying its probability). So I'll confine myself to a few highlights.

The opening minute – all those crunches, with an almost impossible number of semitone clashes almost-resolving themselves yet in the process setting up further clashes to be almost-resolved.

3.20 – superb. Amidst the deliberate thorniness comes a sunbeam of nonchalant triple-time.

... And I love the way it finishes off like fucking Rachmaninov on acid. Thank you, Mr Craig.

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