On July 31st 2020 Impulse Records released a recording of a surprise 1968 High School performance. It is a previously unheard of work by jazz great Thelonious Monk. A sixteen year old high school student, Danny Scher had a dream to invite Monk and his all star quartet to perform a concert at his local high school in Palo Alto. It was a time of great unrest following assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy as well as protests over the war in Viet Nam. Palo Alto was still a largely segregated area. It is unknown why a man at the top of his fame would accept such a gig. He was in the middle of a three week jazz workshop in San Francisco and perhaps he was moved by Scher’s gumption. In any event the result was a 47 minute set performed at that high school. Unbelievably it was recorded by the school janitor. Now all these years later this unknown work by one of the greats of this monumental concert was released. From that concert I am playing Thelonious Monk and his quartet with the song Epistrophy.
I have a strange story about the theme song written for the movie Mash. The music composer was the great Johnny Mandel. The director of the movie Robert Altman had two stipulations about the song. It had to be called Suicide Is Painless and had to be the stupidest song ever written. Altman attempted to write the lyrics himself but soon found it difficult for his 45 year old brain to write stupid enough. He gave the task to his 14 year old son Michael who wrote the lyrics in five minutes. The song was a big hit. Robert Altman made only $70,000 for directing the movie but his 14 year old son Michael Altman earned more than one million for co-writing the song. I have a cover of this great song released last August by Australian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Naomi Louise Warne. It is part of her project The Songs Of Johnny Mandel and features Grammy Award winner Charles Neville on the tenor saxophone accompanying the keys and vocals of Warne.
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