Stories of Standards: "Epistrophy"

Sep 13, 2018

Kenny Clarke
Credit https://www.npr.org/sections/ablogsupreme/2014/01/08/260769892/the-drummer-who-invented-jazzs-basic-beat

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Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke composed “Epistrophy” in 1941; it was first recorded in April 1942 by Cootie Williams and his Orchestra under the title “Fly Right” and first released with the “Epistrophy” title in 1948 as the B side of Thelonious Monk’s single “In Walked Bud”. The word “epistrophe”, pronounced ɛˈpɪstrəfi, refers to a literary device in which a word or phrase is repeated at the end of successive clauses or sentences.

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982), Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Clarke are considered the founders of bebop in 1940, with Charlie Parker added to the group the following year. In the mid-1950s, Monk was acclaimed as a master, the critics and fans of jazz having recognized the genius of his style, which had been fully formed by the mid-1940s. He was famed for his inventiveness and style; his beret and dark glasses became icons of jazz. He toured through the 1960s before suddenly retiring in 1973, living in seclusion (with few appearances) until his death in 1982. Though known to be ill, doubts remain as to the exact nature of his illness. During his last years he was largely supported by his wife Nellie and Pannonica de Koenigswarter, whose devotion to jazz started when she first heard Monk’s album “Round Midnight”.

Orphaned when five years old, Kenny Clarke (1914-1985) started playing drums at the orphanage a few years later and began playing professionally as a seventeen year old. Playing with a series of bands, frequently backing up on vibraphone, he replaced the then-standard use of bass drum as a time-keeper to a combination of cymbal and snare drum. The sound of the rimshot-snare sequence led to his nickname of Klook (short for Klook-Mop). Clarke was drafted in 1943, married first wife Carmen McRae while in basic training in 1944, went AWOL for four months during which time he toured with Cootie Williams and Dinah Washington. He was captured and sent to Europe, where he became part of the Special Services (entertainment) and led, sang, and played drums, trombone and piano. He converted to Islam after his Army discharge, taking the name Liaquat Ali Salaam. Clarke moved to Paris in 1956, married Daisy Wallbach in 1962, taught music, played in jazz festivals and made his last recording less than a month before his death of a heart attack.