Mood-Swinging Jazz: The Music of Thelonious Monk by the Will Goble Quartet at Valley Bar

Niki D'AndreaAugust 25, 2016
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“How many people came to see Thelonious Monk tonight?” Goble asked, gripping his upright bass. “My apologies that he passed away in 1982. I am not Thelonious Monk.”

Will Goble publicity photoBut Goble is a noted and celebrated jazz musician, bandleader, composer and educator. He tours with drummer Jason Marsalis (of the vaunted Marsalis jazz family) and teaches at Scottsdale Community College and the Phoenix Conservatory of Music. His baby face belies his many years of experience and maturity as a musician, but once he starts plucking those bass strings and scatting along with his solos, it’s clear that Goble’s got some serious chops – and a great sense of humor (see “The Quotable Goble” at the bottom of this blog).

The show, which spanned two 45-minute sets, incorporated a few of Goble’s own tunes (available on the CDs he had for sale at Valley Bar, Goble reminded us), my favorite of which was the upbeat, Monk-inspired “Johnson’s Magic Umbrella.” Goble gave great history lessons before each Monk tune; prior to playing “Ugly Beauty,” Goble explained the composition was from the bebop era, and it was “perhaps the only tune [Monk] wrote in 3/4 [time] – so if you want to waltz, this is the song.” The players’ performance of “Ugly Beauty” was opiate-like — dreamy and disconnected, with sad saxophones lounging around the edges. It was almost as good as the quintet’s rendition of Monk’s “Locomotive” (see “Music Highlights” below), though it’s a sonic polar opposite.

By the end of the night, the couple behind me had moved from the third row to the first row, and the couple in front of me had shared a bottled of wine and were holding hands. Things turned out smooth as jazz.

What/Who/Where: The music of Thelonious Monk by the Will Goble Quartet at Valley Bar on Wednesday, August 24

Price Point: A steal at five bucks

Ambiance: Candlelit basement jazz club with concrete floors and walls, exposed wood beam ceilings, folding chair seating with a handful of tables, and a full bar. The tables in the back near the sound booth can get chilly from frequent arctic blasts from the air conditioner, so bring a jacket or sweater if you ever sit there.

Music Highlights: First set – “Locomotive,” with its gorgeous melodic melding of soulful guitar and woozy saxophone, so sweet it had Goble grinning. Second set – “Brilliant Corners,” featuring an awesome arrangement by guitarist John Moyer.

Kindred Spirits (aka booze and music pairings): Cocktail – The Janet Napolotini (gin, green chartreuse, domain de canon ginger, and lime juice with rosemary garnish) is sweet like new romance and cool jazz, but packs a potent herbal liqueur punch that pairs well with hard bebop and spousal arguments. Wine – whatever the house red is (it was a sweet tempranillo at the show), because it’s a jazz show, and red wine is always jazzy. Beer – Arizona’s own Wren House ginger ale, medium-bodied but slightly frothy and with a slightly spicy ginger finish. Great for sipping between solos.

The Quotable Goble: “You can come onstage during the tune if you give me some money.”

(After referencing his native state of North Carolina and all the jazz greats who shared his birthplace – including Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Nina Simone): “Everybody left. The better the musician, the earlier they left.”

“I watched an 11 year-old sing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’ one time. It was odd.”


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