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Crepuscule with Nellie: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Thelonious Monk wrote "Crepuscule with Nellie" for his wife (the eponymous Nellie) when she was having surgery for a thyroid disorder in 1957. "Crepuscule" first appeared on a Monk album that same year, Monk’s Music. The CD re-issue of this album includes multiple takes of the tune; first, the more polished, finished-sounding version. Monk at the piano is joined here by Art Blakey on the drums, Wilbur Ware on bass, Gigi Gryce, Coleman Hawkins, and John Coltrane on saxophones, and Ray Copeland on trumpet. This version starts with a solo piano introduction from Monk before the drums and bass join Monk on this beautiful ballad. Monk lets his chords ring out underneath the melody and Wilbur Ware’s bowed bass under some of these phrases is just perfect. Blakey’s drums on this version of the tune are mostly understated brushed snare to provide the atmosphere. Around 1:20 or so, Monk plays a very catchy phrase from this melody that will become an important part of Jason Moran’s version (more on that below). At about 2:15, the horns join in and fill out the "Crepuscule" melody. Here, Monk plays the melody in unison with the horns, adding some piano fills in between phrases (and sometimes letting the silence in between phrases make a statement as well). Around 3:30, the phrase that Monk introduced around 1:20 on piano returns, this time with Monk and the horns playing in unison. This version of "Crepuscule" is just beautiful stuff, mostly written music with some room for improvisation as well.

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Prince and Liv Warfield on the Arsenio Hall Show (Video)

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

As part of an apparent time machine experiment, Prince recently appeared on the Arsenio Hall show, premiering some new material (not a repeat from 1991, this was a new performance). Besides Prince, the show also included some other great performers, including Art of Cool Festival performer and current member of Prince’s band, Liv Warfield.

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Isotope: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Like Stanley Cowell, Joe Henderson is a fantastic musician who is somewhat overshadowed by his peers. The giants of saxophone - Coltrane, Rollins, Shorter - are rightly considered masters of their instrument, but Henderson has led or been involved in an amazing number of classic albums over the course of his career. He played as a sideman on Horace Silver’s Song For My Father, Herbie Hancock’s The Prisoner and Fat Albert Rotunda, Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay and Straight Life, Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure, and Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder, to name just a few. Holy cow. I’ll look at a Joe Henderson composition here, "Isotope".

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Human Nature: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

Michael Jackson’s 1982 Thriller album included some pretty amazing jams - "Beat It", "Wanna Be Starting Something", "Thriller", and "Billie Jean", as well as the Paul McCartney-featuring "The Girl Is Mine", amazing in its own right for the section of conversation between Jackson and McCartney. So, the album covers a pretty wide spectrum. Of the songs on that album, "Human Nature" is not the one that I would expect to inspire jazz musicians and hip-hop producers, but real life is funny that way. "Human Nature" has been sampled a number of times, but the one that matters is Nas’ "It Ain’t Hard to Tell," transformed by Large Professor’s hard drums, bass, and horn samples layered on top of the basic Michael Jackson loop.

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Gingerbread Boy: A Critical Analysis of Covers

Ben Gray
Contributing Writer
bengray417@gmail.com

"Gingerbread Boy" is a tune written by saxophone player Jimmy Heath that was played fairly heavily following its first appearance, then underwent some big changes up to the present day. But before we get to that, the beginning - the first appearance of this song was in 1964 on Jimmy Heath’s On The Trail album, where Heath was joined by Wynton Kelly on piano, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Paul Chambers on bass, and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums.