Spirits of the Songs
We'll You Needn't mp3 sample clip
Well You Needn’t first appeared as one of a dozen groundbreaking original compositions on Thelonious Monk’s Blue Note album Genius of Modern Music Volume 1. My recording of this song with the Frank Sullivan Trio provides listeners with a fresh, new arrangement. Monk’s commercial success in jazz was so great that countless musicians today include Well You Needn’t in their repertoire.
Another version of Well You Needn’t I really admire is the one on Miles Davis’ Steamin’ With the Quintet album he made for Prestige in 1956. The upbeat rendition has a great Coltrane solo on it. As well, the cover art for the recording date is just so cool. That band- the Miles Davis Quintet has one of the most dynamic frontlines in jazz history. Miles, was his economic solo material, paired with Coltrane’s ‘sheets of sound’ and myriad of notes.
The Genius of Modern Music was a key album for Monk. His music at the time needed to be documented, and Blue Note gave him the opportunity to do so. He was working at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem (as well as 52nd street) right next to Dewey Square. Monk was part of the house rhythm section there that held countless jam session night after night. We was what made New York nightlife unique during the 1940’s.
One critic of the day commented that Well You Needn’t didn’t take a Julliard education to understand- but I think that Monk’s simple melodic phrases are what made him standout from the other pianists of the day. What made him so great is that he embraced the tradition of James P. Johnson (the father of Harlem stride piano). You can here it in his music just as you can here Art Tatum in Bud Powell’s music.
Another one of Monk’s compositions I really like is In Walked Bud. He stays simple with a fifth interval in the melody and allows the soloing musicians to take-off in their own interpretation of things (just as Coltrane was doing with him at the Five Spot Cafe). I think of him as a composer more than a performer, just as the case with Charles Mingus (which is the opposite for John Coltrane- and Charlie Parker would be the case where a musician would be both)