Sitting between two couples in the music hall at Valley Bar, I observed the polarity of stages of romance. The couple in front of me argued for ten minutes about spending more holidays with one person’s family than the other and talked about a lot of stuff – as in, “I can’t get to my Nordic Track because all your stuff is in the way” and “I’ll come get my stuff next week.” They were wearing wedding rings. Maybe not for much longer. The couple sitting behind me was much younger, and it sounded like they were on a first date from all their slightly awkward, get-to-know-you Q&A (“So, um, I like peas. Do you like peas?”).
This eavesdrop sandwich was a lot like the jazz music of Thelonious Monk, which we were there to hear Wednesday night. The late, great pianist’s compositions ranged from wobbly, borderline-raucous bebop and hard bop (infused with gospel and blues) to mellow, swooning cool jazz so cool you’d swear the C notes were winking at you from behind sunglasses. Monk’s jazz scale tipped two directions – percussive piano-pounding peppered with melodic pretzels, and then sudden slides into dramatic silences. His best-known songs to a casual jazz fan are probably “Round Midnight” and “Straight, No Chaser,” but Monk is the second-most recorded jazz composer, behind Duke Ellington. So it’s little wonder that a show at Valley Bar featuring the Will Goble Quartet (actually, a quintet that night) performing the music of Thelonious Monk was sold out.