Thelonious Monk on "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)"

An appropriately idiosyncratic tribute.
Solo Monk (1965) was the very first Thelonious Monk recording I listened to. I remember seeing the album art, depicting Monk as an aviator figure presumably embarking on a solo expedition, and checking out the CD from my local library as a curiosity. With regards to this particular track, Vijay Iyer played the master take of "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" from this record at the beginning of a workshop at Banff last year. I was glad to recognize this recording as one of my favorites of the record for its naked, pure quality, but Vijay pointed out the solo break in particular. 

At the end of Monk's delivery of the melody, he launches into a four-bar line that begins as a standard I-VI-ii-V turnaround, but at the very end seems to nearly stumble: the left hand misses the upbeat of the last Eb7 going into the top of the next chorus, and Monk's descending right hand line lays back beyond the expectation of an expressive hesitation. Vijay described it as a moment of human drama, and I completely agree—Monk sounds like he's on the verge of faltering, but he miraculously catches the downbeat of the next chorus like a baseball catcher diving for a deep center field drive. 



Although I know very little about stride piano, to my ears this is some of the most solid, self-assured medium tempo left hand I've heard. It doesn't sound nearly as effortless as other great stride players with regards to the lightness of the touch, but every beat feels firmly wrought, sculpted into existence by Monk. Also, consider these lyrics:
I'm confessin' that I love you,
Tell me, do you love me too? 
I'm confessin' that I need you, 
Honest I do, need you every moment! 
In your eyes I read such strange things, 
But your lips deny they're true,
Will your answer really change things, 
Making me blue? 

I'm afraid someday you'll leave me, 
Say'n can't we still be friends? 
If you go, you know you'll grieve me, 
All in life on you depends,
Am I guessin' that you love me?
Dreamin' dreams of you in vain,
I'm confessin' that I love you, 
Over again! 

I'm afraid someday you'll leave me, 
Say'n can't we still be friends? 
If you go, you know you'll grieve me, 
All in life on you depends,
Am I guessin' that you love me? 
Dreamin' dreams of you in vain, 
I'm confessin' that I love you, 
Over again!
Unabashedly sentimental, the song is exposed to the emotional core in Monk's rendering, I think. In a way, it's also transformed: the song moves from being an object of easy c.2013 ironization and satirization to an immutable artistic entity. Monk's recording sounds neither ironic nor self-righteously earnest: to me, he sounds simply honest—trying to play the song as it is in the way that he sees most fit. The alternate take is although worth taking a listen to; in fact, you can hear all the takes on Columbia's Monk Alone set, which has all of the solo studio session takes. Here's the alternate take:



Comments

  1. this is for piano?
    where i can find the complete piano sheet of this song?
    thnks!

    ReplyDelete

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