Monk and Roll EP
On this recording, I improvised alongside my piano roll arrangement using the 4th generation piano by Modartt, PIANOTEQ. If the piano roll data were hand-played by Thelonious Monk himself, this would truly be "virtual duo" with Monk.
A player piano (also known as a pianola or autopiano) is a self-playing piano, containing a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the piano action via pre-programmed music-perforated paper rolls. Claude Debussy, Alexander Scriabin, George Gershwin, James P. Johnson, Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and Thomas 'Fats' Waller are among the composers who have had their performances recorded with reproducing pianos. Player pianos flourished in the early 1920s, but decreased in popularity as phonograph recordings improved due to electrical recording methods developed in the mid 1920s. Strangely enough, since then, we cannot find a single duo composition for player piano and human instrumentalist in music history. So I came up with the concept of a MIDI piano roll arrangement accompanied by an improvisation (blank) part.
First, I began to make a piano roll arrangement with the reference MIDI data of Monk's "Well You Needn't" piano solo, transcribed from The Complete Blue Note Recordings (Blue Note 30363) [NOTE: "Blue Monk" was partially transcribed from Prestige PRLP 7027]. Secondly, I developed it into my own "duo" arrangement just as big band arrangers do for their own bands, except in my case, I used a MIDI player piano such as the YAMAHA Disklavier. After I completed the first track, "Well You Needn't," I felt this recording could be used for educational purposes and public performance (I did not feel bold enough to think, "Well I needn't pianists anymore"). So I decided to pre-release four Monk compositions as an EP sampler for the enlightenment of the future musical world.
The reason I picked up Thelonious Monk compositions for this project is that Monk can be defined as a vital bridge between the past and the future. His angular melodies, rhythmic concept, and dissonant harmonies coalesced around 1920's stride piano, and took an active part in forming 1940's bebop as well serving as a developable source of free jazz in the1960's. His music is open to many styles of improvisation.
Regarding my "meow" guitar sound, I invented a passive tone pedal by modifying a BOSS FV-50H volume pedal with Mike "aNaLoGMaN" Piera. I use this to distance myself from the one-dimensional sounds of jazz guitar. My headless Steinberger GL-2 guitar upgraded by Phil Langley sometimes has the clean sound of a solid-body Les Paul guitar. At other times, it has Jimi Hendrix's bluesy tones, with my own touch.
I hope that established jazz pianists will leave their hand-played MIDI piano data so that they can play together with descendants and jazz improvisers all over the world forever. Arranging and recording MIDI piano roll for the "virtual" duo setting is like leaving our message in a time capsule.
JAZZ is the succession and development of musicians looking enviously at the past. My vision of the piano roll for 2020 is embodied in this EP recording. Rolling (roaring) 20's are upcoming...... Let's Monk and Roll!
Dedicated to Thelonious Monk
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Great for free play too. Internalize the pulse. See if you can hang. Ha!