Spirits of the Songs
Straight No Chaser mp3 sample clip
Straight No Chaser is a standard blues once again made famous by Thelonius Monk. When he first played it in the early 1950’s, he had the melody hidden behind horns. Today that melodic line is more recognizable to more musicians and jazz fans than almost any other song. It can serve as the perfect way to start or end a jazz concert.
Frank Sullivan’s trio has appeared on some great records. They have some on the CD Baby website and they have one with Bobby Bradford on Soul Note Records. Soul Note/ Black Saint is an Italian label that documents great avant-garde and straight-ahead players. There are many masters on that label and you can hear the masterful musicianship of Frank’s band on this track.
When I was studying at the New School Jazz Program in NYC, Straight No Chaser was called more often than any other song. When musicians from various backgrounds come together, this song works perfectly. I used it as my closer on the mini-set I had to record to get into the program. I interpreted it in a similar way as Johnny Griffin.
Once again, it was penned by Thelonious Monk. This time it was for use for his second volume of the Genius of Modern Music album. I like how he plays the melody on the piano rather than have a horn play it first. He probably wrote in one night during a jam session at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem.
Musicians use Straight No Chaser more than any other blues today. The standard form allows the performer to make a statement that will really impress their audience. Today people use it as an opener or closer to a set of music. The audience easily recognizes the song and musicians can impress one another with a recently thought up ‘lick’ or improv statement of theirs.