Arts & Events

New: Jed Distler Plays the Complete Works of Thelonious Monk at Berkeley Arts Festival on Wednesday

By Bonnie Hughes
Saturday April 14, 2012 - 10:11:00 AM

As an exciting last minute addition to the Berkeley Arts Festival’s spring season, composer/pianist Jed Distler will perform the complete works of the legendary jazz composer/pianist/icon Thelonious Monk—about 70 compositions— within a single concert (approximately 90 minutes of music plus intermission) at 7:30 PM. Wednesday, April 18 at the Berkeley Arts Festival, 2133 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA. Suggested donation at the door is $10-$15. The year 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of Monk’s death; Distler premiered his show February 17, the actual anniversary, at the Cornelia Street Café in Manhattan, then performed it at LightSoundSPace in Rahway, NJ and, most recently, at the Winchester Arts Center in Las Vegas, NV. Distler weaves the songs together into a seamless, uninterrupted and refreshingly varied canvass. 

One of modern jazz’s founding figures, Thelonious Monk’s angular phases, unpredictable melodies, unique approaches to rhythmic articulation and accents, singular wit, and instantly identifiable piano style looms larger than ever in the early 21st century. DIstler himself heard Monk live, albeit only once. “I was 14, and I kind of stumbled into the Village Vanguard with a high school friend, not knowing what to expect. The music went right past me, but the following year I got hold of the newly reissued 1952 Monk Prestige trio sessions, and immediately fell in love with the pianist's unconventional virtuosity, angular melodies, exciting use of space, and unique harmonic ideas.” 

“What's been interesting about this project is that at first I thought playing Monk would reconnect me with my childhood jazz roots and early improvising, yet, instead, Monk's music has provided a new impetus for me to embrace my life as a new music composer/pianist. I’ve rethought and rearranged (some may say “deranged”) most of the songs, often putting a new spin on a familiar favorite. For example, ‘Blue Monk’ emerges as a complex, relentlessly churning boogie woogie etude, ‘Jacke-ing’ sounds like Shostakovich at a hoedown, while ‘Ruby, My Dear’ embraces the sensual sonorities and lush production values one hears in 1970s soul music ballads. In any event, I hope that I’ve made Monk’s music my own, and that you enjoy the journey.”