[Dixielandjazz] Re: The Perfect Solo - Was Art

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 5 14:49:56 PST 2003

> From: "Bill Gunter" <jazzboard at hotmail.com>
> I recall a thread on the subject of the "Perfect Solo."  The thesis was
> offered that most solos are random noodling around for the best notes and
> the most perfect solo would be one where the "essence" of the solo is
> reduced to the ONE perfect note.  Then, since the resulting note would be
> the most obvious one it would become a redundancy to actually play it and,
> as a result, the artist should simply show up for the performance but not
> play his "note" out of respect for the intelligence of the audience who
> would resent having the obvious flung in its face, then pack up his horn,
> collect his gig pay and go home.

Yes, Brilliant.

Thelonious Monk was an example of this exact thesis. He wrote a song wherein the melody
line was one note, played with varied rhythmic pulse and chromatic chord changes in the
left hand. But that right hand melody was one note. In answer to those who said his
tunes were too complicated.

Then fueled by that success in his search for "The Perfect Note" while in San
Francisco, he played his solos for an entire set without striking any notes. (He did
back the sax and play the ensembles).
When the set was over, he rose from the piano, went to the bar and said to his
admirers, great set eh?
Not sure they agreed, but he did indeed play Bill's "perfect note" on every solo.

He kept his hands poised over the piano, brought them down as if to strike that perfect
note, but at the last moment did not do so. It took an enormous amount of concentration
and he was bathed in sweat at set's end.

Monk also left lots of space between notes, measures etc. So that the listener, would
fill in the blanks. And as we OKOMers often state simplicity and economy of notes are
often virtues.

Steve Barbone

PS Monk? Perhaps the first modern OKOMer? Much more of a Dixielander than a Be Bopper.

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