Monday, August 15, 2011

Music Parable # 4: How Thelonious Monk met Harry Colomby


High School music teacher Harry Colomby (who’s brother Jules worked as a recording engineer for Signal Records) was involved in the jazz scene in New York. He was watching Art Blakey & the Jazz Messnager play. Blakey was to come to Colomby’s high school the next day and play a concert for the students. Colomby had come to insure that Blakey knew the way to the school and the time that he was scheduled to appear. It was already 1:30 AM, and Colomby had to teach a class the next day at 7:30. At around this time, Thelonious Monk walked into the club. Colomby had met him before, but it took someone yelling “Hey Monk!” for him to make the connection. It took Monk a couple of minutes to recognize Colomby, but once he did, he asked Colomby if he could give him a ride home. Colomby said, okay, but that he had to be up at 6:30. Monk assured him that he just wanted to see Blakey for a couple of minutes, so once Blakey’s set had ended, they both went up to see him.

Monk proceeded to involve himself in a lengthy conversation with Blakey, much to the distress of Colomby. Finally, Monk tried to draw Colomby into the conversation:

“You’re a s school teacher?” Monk asked. “Yeah,” replied Colomby, “And I have to get up very early. I’ll probably only get an hour or two of sleep.” He added with a bit of a laugh. “You don’t need much sleep,” offered Monk, “Really, I haven’t slept for two days myself. You feel more alert with less sleep.”

Finally, Monk was ready to go at around 3:00 AM. As he was driving him home, Colomby noted that Monk was his favorite musician. Monk wasn’t receiving the accolades that he would later, but Colomby stated that he should just keep doing his thing and that he would make it big eventually. Monk seemed to like this, it was what he was planning on doing anyways, and by the end of the car trip had hired Colomby to become his manager.

Colomby would remain Monk’s manager for the rest of his musical career. Monk would gain enormous national prestige in 1964 when he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, one of only five jazz musicians to do so in the history of the publication. Colomby always referred to Monk as "a man of great personal courage and great dignity."

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