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Charles Rahmat Woods - MYSTICAL MONK
I met Thelonius Monk, personally, when I was a young musician living in New York City …maybe around 1971 or 1972.  Harlem talent manager Tommy Robinson had invited his son, Bronx saxophonist Bruce Robinson and myself to the Vanguard to catch Monk’s set.  I remember Paul Jeffrey was playing tenor sax with Monk then.  It was an honor to meet Monk.  I was not only impressed by his live music, but also by his tall stature and gracious demeanor….truly representative of a royal lineage of enlightened musical artist.

There is a scene in Clint Eastwood’s award winning film “Straight No Chaser”: Thelonius Monk paces to and fro in the kitchen of the Village Vanguard club during a break.  The Baroness gives him a new pen and ask him to try it out and write on a napkin…He takes the pen and twirls it in his hands…with quick pen strokes Monk deftly marks the napkin with several slash marks, as his face presents a zen masters concentration (release without focus).  Monk returns to his pacing and says “Can you read that!...get somebody to decipher that for you ….tell (you) what it means….It’ll upset you…you’ll flip!...I mean flip for real…(laughter).” Was the essence of Monk’s music like the slash of that pen…The marks of the pen were mysterious …interpret how you will. The sounds of his music carry elements of mystery…interpret how you will. Indeed!

Mystic, as defined in Webster’s dictionary, “relates to or contains mystery; involving a sacred or secret meaning revealed only to a spiritually enlightened mind”

 Was Thelonius Monk a mystic?  Strange hats…..twirling, whirling, dance during his performances….rhythmic burst of chords within his piano solos…subtle humor elicited by his melodies? Thelonius Monk was a unique artist.  To quote master drummer Roy Haynes (who played extensively with Monk) “…Monk….was one of the most original people I know...the other was Lester Young…”

The Charles Rahmat Woods ensemble Mystical Monk project will bring fresh interpretations to Thelonius Monk’s compositions drawn from his extensive body of work, presenting not only traditional arrangements, but also incorporating musical elements of contemporary Jazz and native cultures. I feel these arrangements will highlight Monk’s eclectic work and engage a broad audience whether they are familiar with his compositions, or experiencing the manifestations of his genius for the first time.  I am a small ensemble performer and I have always enjoyed the musical intimacy of Monk’s small groups.  

The Mystical Monk project will offer an insightful and entertaining program celebrating Thelonius Monk. Charles Rahmat Woods’ latest recording release “Rahmat Shabazz Trio Plus” (RAHMAT SHABAZZ ASR 027) includes the Thelonius Monk composition “Monk’s Dream” and features multi-instrumentalist and pianist David Ornette Cherry (Portland Oregon based son of the late trumpeter Don Cherry), keyboardist Derek Gasque (Memphis TN), and drummer Roger Stewart (Paradigm Studios, MD).  Budget permitting, the “Mystic Monk” project will include these gentleman and other notable musicians.

A sample repertoire for the Mystical Monk project may include the following:

Monk’s Dream (Monk)

Tatanka Yotanka and Chief Crazy Horse (Woods/Shabazz)

Hackensack (Monk)

Pannonica (Monk)

Off Minor (Monk)

Let’s Cool One (Monk)

Ugly Beauty (Monk)

Blue Monk (Monk)