Pat’s Top 40 Before 40: Monk, Bird, Weather Report, Nuge

26. Weather Report – Mysterious Traveler (1974)

This is like all of the music of the world at once. How many hours did I spend in the Music Resource Centre listening to this on vinyl with the headphones smushed right into my wear? That years later my love of this record was shared and confirmed with pals Jim Vivian and Ed Squires.

For the range of forms and timbres and for the spirit of teamwork throughout, Weather Report loom very large in my life. It is the well I always return to. Zawinul is a guy I’ve transcribed through the years. His solo record “Dialects” should be on this list as well. Is this folk jazz? The angles of the melodies seem as natural and original as branches on a tree.

27. John Nugent – Did I Tell You? (1990)

Nuge was a teacher there one year and Eastern Music Camp. I forget exactly how many summers I spent there, but likely 3 or 4. Again, I had become aware of him via Katie Malloch and JazzBeat. He was simply an inspiring guy who also happened to be a Newfoundlander.

This is a killer straight ahead record with Neil Swainson, Jon Ballantyne and Jerry Fuller. It’s not online, but here’s Nuge in action.

In my life I have met a select few people who I consider to be magic. Nuge is one. What he does at the Rochester Jazz Festival is impossible to describe. You need to be there and witness how he engages the community, artists, staff, and crew. It is the model for all other music festivals, jazz or otherwise.

I’ve been researching a book about jazz music in Newfoundland. Nuge figures prominently. At a very early age, he was jamming with established veterans around St. John’s. I have the tapes to prove it. I’s undeniable that jazz is an urban music. But big centres like New York and Toronto are filled with folks from smaller towns who loved the music enough to leave and prosper. Never underestimate the power of people who come from small towns.

28. Thelonious Monk – Monk’s Dream (1963)

I really struggled in selecting a single Monk record. Because of the deep groove from Frankie Dunlop and the best Charlie Rouse on record (yeah, I said it) I opted for this single recording for the list. But the space, depth, and relfection in Solo Monk is impossible not to love. This version of I Should Care is not for those in a rush.

The first time I heard Monk was in a kiosk that sold CDs in Heathrow Airport. It was this recording of Bag’s Groove.

I’m still coming to terms with playing his music. There are very few players I’ve heard who can pull off his music without trying to sound “like” Monk. Fred Hersch and Steve Lacy immediately come to mind. Monk’s music stands alone, parallel to yet veering away from “jazz.”


29. The Complete Dean Benedetti Recordings of Charlie Parker (1947-48)

Recorded by Dean Benedetti between March 1, 1947, and July 11, 1948, the set collects 15 days’ worth of Parker’s improvisations and rehearsals at a variety of clubs, including the Hi-De-Ho in Los Angeles and the Three Deuces and the Onyx in New York. Like this:

I love these not because they are the best Bird recordings in sound or performance. They aren’t. I love them because they are as close as one can get to what was going on back then, especially the New York recordings.

John Lewis told Wynton Marsalis that “he would go to hear Charlie Parker and there would be all types of people listening: longshoremen, policemen, people who simply heard his sound and were touched by it. Lewis would be hurrying home and just happen to stop in a club for a second. But Charlie Parker’s playing was so gripping it made him stay.”

It’s that element of jazz music I fear we are losing. Jazz festivals and jazz programs need to do more to expand their audience beyond musicians. Bird’s music has endured not just because he was a great jazz musician, but in spite of it.


30. John Scofield and Pat Metheny – I Can See You House From Here (1994)

 I robbed this record from Matt Wells at an infamous sleep over at his house. Robbing Pat Metheny records….we were wild back then.

This is one of “those” records where I can sing every single note and solo. These guys are titans. Bill Stewart is the king maker on this outing. He answers every phrase without coming across with an agenda.

This is an escape record for me. I put it on and I can be anywhere, creating a liminal “anywhere but nowhere” universe for myself.

Metheny is a musician I have followed ever since buying a copy of Letter From Home in Baltimore in 1991. I love him for his distinct language and how he’s cultivated that language in such a variety of forums. Large group, small group. He is beyond style and yet, like Monk, entirely his own style. He can make his natural self “fit” with anything. Case in point:

Scofield is often a sound I have in my head when I am playing trumpet. Like Metheny, his sound and compositional style are distinct but also quite malleable. Groove Elation very nearly made this list. Check out this tune from that record but arranged for Metropole.

This is a record I engage when I am sad to feel happy or when I am happy to feel happier. Can’t think of higher praise.