always know: a book of monk—volume one
by john sinclair
always know: a book of monk is an elongated serial work in verse (originally titled thelonious: a book of monk) which generally purports (with several exceptions) to fashion a poem to and for each of the recorded works of the great african-american pianist & composer thelonious monk.
the book of monk is projected to include some 150 discrete verse works written after monk's recordings, each of which is numbered in the book according to a strict chrono-discographical scheme which follows (with very few exceptions) the exact sequence in which the individual recordings (or, in some cases, groups of recordings) were committed to recording disk or tape between 1947 and 1972.
thelonious: a book of monk is organized into four sections:
• book one: blue notes (1947-1952) • book two: prestige (1952-1955) • book three: riversides (1955-1962) • book four: columbias (1962-1972)
the recording under hand presents the poet's recitations of the proem ("fly right") and the opening sequence of poems #1-40 of the book of monk. this program comprises book one—blue notes.
the composition of the proem and #1-20 of the book of monk was begun in 1982 and completed in december 1985 for a private printing of the first half of volume one at the end of that year to be distributed among the poet's family & friends. a small xerox edition was printed by the poet for sale in 1986 as thelonious: a book of monk—volume one.
in 1991 several of these poems—along with others from later in the book of monk sequence—were recorded to the accompaniment of pianist ed moss for a project titled "fly right"—a monk suite, produced by ron esposito & steve gebhardt at wvxu-fm in cincinnati, ohio.
as the project progressed, the producers contracted with harvey kubernik to secure the release of "fly right" on new alliance records. the recordings were completed in august 1991, but the producers' series of queries seeking a "mechanical license" permitting use of the thelonious monk compositions to which the poems were recited was met with a stone wall of indifference at the thelonious music corporation that eventually rose to the formidable height of three long years.
finally, in september of 1994, the poet decided to raise the white flag of truce for the time being and went into chez flames studio in new orleans to make this recording under the direction of keith keller. It was released on cd by new alliance records in 1996 under the aegis of harvey kubernik.
the section #21-40 was composed between 1985-2005 and recorded with producer steve “the fly” pratt at e-1 studio in amsterdam in january 2013 to complete the recording of always know: a book of monk—volume one.
(1) in every possible instance, the poet attempts to engage proficient musical accompanists to play the appropriate monk works for the poet's performance of these verses, returning the words to the bed of music from which they arose. in this case, however, the difficulties encountered in attempting to secure permission for use of the monk compositions in the "fly right" project precluded the use of musical accompaniment here. thus the poems are present ed a capella stylee, and here they are.
(2) while the poems from the book of monk are usually presented in performance (and in print) without regard to their place in the numerical sequence, they will eventually be issued—when completed—as are the works in this volume one: according to the order in which the songs which gave birth to the poems were recorded by thelonious monk himself.
the poet takes considerable pride in presenting—by means of the present recording and the printed book to follow—these modest works in sequential order, as the entire book of monk will ultimately appear. the poems were composed primarily to be heard in the ear as well as seen on the page, and, again, here they are.
for more information concerning the formal scheme and the composition of always know: a book of monk, the listener is invited to listen to the after word section at the end of the recitation on this disk.
further, affiant sayeth not.
—john sinclair new orleans december 2, 1994 >
august 2, 2013
© 1994, 2013 john sinclair. all rights reserved.