Ellis Marsalis

An Open Letter To Thelonious (Digital Music Card)

Thelonious.Monk…. enigma…. An artist whose unique sense of harmonic structure and rhythm has captivated every jazz lover to date. While tribute albums to him have come and gone, very few have managed to capture the essence of his ex-traordinary uniqueness without attempting to replicate him. Ellis Marsalis: An Open Letter To Thelonious (NJE #1034), the latest release from 2011 NEA (National Endowment of the Arts) Jazz Master and jazz piano legend, Ellis Marsalis, does just that. In this critically acclaimed release, Ellis is supported by Derek Douget on Tenor & Soprano Saxophone, Jason Stewart on Bass, and Jason Marsalis on Drums. With such Monk classics as Crepuscule with Nellie; Jackie-ing; Epistrophy; Monks’ Mood; Straight, No Chaser; Light Blue; Teo; Ruby, My Dear; Rhythm-a-ning; Round Midnight, and Evidence there’s something for jazz aficionado and music lover alike.


"[This is the best new jazz recording I've heard this year, gorgeously played and wonderfully recorded " — Amazon.com


“Marsalis and saxophonist Derek Douget share a telepathic empathy that in-fuses the entire group building a synergistically cohesive performance unit.” — C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz


“Marsalis keeps Monk's music very much alive with his inspired interpreta-tions of the legend's compositions.” — Ken Dryden, Rovi /All Music Guide “Ellis Marsalis, at 73 a lucid, subtle, laconic pianist, shines up these tunes, leaving sufficient space while weaving phrases in and around the solos.” — Ben Ratliff, New York Times



Ellis Marsalis: Piano

Derek Douget: Tenor Saxophone

Jason Stewart: Bass

Jason Marsalis: Drums


Original Liner Notes ByJason Marsalis


Thelonious Monk is a musician who is considered a genius. If it’s his memorable jazz compositions or his unique piano style, Monk’s impact on jazz is sealed forever. However, there’s one element of Monk’s genius that is sometimes overlooked: RHYTHM. Not only was Monk a master at manipulating harmony, he also knew how to use space. With space comes rhythm. I jokingly refer to Monk as the “first unofficial funk musician”. Why? Because if you take any of Monk’s tunes (Green Chimneys, Bemsha Swing, Bye-Ya to name a few) and put a funk beat on top of the melody, the melody will fit the rhythm of the beat. For an example on this CD, listen to the arrangement of the obscure Monk tune “Teo”. Groove was not only in Monk’s playing but in his compositions as well. I was performing a show and during a funk tune, we started experimenting with a rock rhythm. The keyboardist starts playing what I was sure was a song by Metallica, Van Halen, or a group in that vein. I listened closely and what tune was he quoting? “Brilliant Corners”! Go figure. Then again, it’s a testament to Monk’s use of rhythm. Drummers take note: play the rhythm of Monk’s tunes on the drums. A lot of valuable information will come forth and one lesson that will be learned is this: Monk was a genius of rhythm. 2007 was a year in which we lost a lot of musicians and friends who have passed away. We would like to first acknowledge the passing of our closest friends, clarinetist and educator Alvin Batiste, Snug Harbor manager George Brumat, artist John Scott, and musicians Wilson (Willie T.) & Earl Turbington, and Ernest “Doc” Paulin. We would also like to acknowledge jazz musicians Alice Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Andrew Hill, Joe Zawinul, and Frank Morgan. Ellis and Jason would like to personally acknowledge the passing of Oscar Peterson and Max Roach. This record is dedicated to ALL other legends that have moved on to a higher calling. There are many individuals who have recorded Monk’s music. There is one individual however that we feel should be acknowledged. We’d like to thank Hans Groiner for his insightful and inspirational interpretation of Thelonious Monk.


 Executive Producer – Jerald Miller

Producer – Jerald Miller for Nu Jazz Records & Nu Jazz Video

Director – Jerald Miller for Nu Jazz Video

Audio Engineer – Jeremy Pildis

Post Production Audio Mastering – Jerald Miller & Jeremy Pildis

Video Camera & Audio – Darren Hoffman for Tutti Dynamics


Acknowledgments Jason Marsalis & Ellis Marsalis would like to thank:


We wish to acknowledge Mama D, Branford, Wynton, Ellis III, Delfeayo, Mboya, Reese, Wynton II, Simeon, Django, Maria, Jasper, Peyton, Jazmine, Thais, Marley, Ella, and McKenzie. The groove masters, Jason Stewart and Derek Douget. Also the supporting cast, Steve Reynolds, Chris Finney, Chris Bailey, Diana Thornton, and Mark Wilder. Last but not least, a special acknowledgement goes out to one of Thelonious Monk’s first producers, Orrin Keepnews, for taking the time out of his busy schedule to listen to this record.


Jerald Miller wishes to thank:


Jerald Miller, Sr.; Charlotte Miller; Valarie Miller; Denise Harris; Michael Miller; Derwin Miller; Anthony Miller; Frances Miller; Janice Miller-Smith & the Smith Family; Betty Finley; Charles Finley, Sr.; Charles Finley, Jr.; Elliot Finley & Family; Artemo, Bertha, & Ramon Garza; Richard Miller; Carol Miller; Tim & Janet Austin; Clarence J. Brooks; Ellis & Delores Marsalis; Wynton Marsalis; Branford Marsalis; Delfeayo Marsalis; Milt, Mona, Charlotte, and Inez Hinton; Mercer, Lena & Paul Ellington; Lauryn Hill; Malaney Hill, Jr.; Malaney Hill, Sr; Valerie Hill; George Avakian; Patrick Smith; Juan Crouch; Pablo Secca; Jeremy & Megan Pildis; David & Holly Berger; Sherwin Jordan & The Jordan Family; David Levy & The Levy Family; Victor Wise & The Wise Family; Taiheem Wentt; Gabrielle Fulton-Ponder; Zora Fulton-Ponder; Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III & The Abyssinian Family; Mike Brown & the entire CYBER-NY staff; Chris Blackwell; Brian Bacchus; Billy Banks; Roderick Ward; Bruce Lundvall; Cheryl Boone; Deeandra Mitchell; Desiree & Malik Kganela; Sara Tai; Ingrid Hickman; Taiheem Wentt; Tiana Grimes; Zaia Grimes; Nadine Alexander; Darren Hoffman; Nadege-Jean Pierre; Kemba Cofield; William Bates; Allison Rich; Brian Hawkins; Cathy Compton; Melissa Branch, Rainey McClung & The McClung Family; Christi Haney; Cody West; Darren Hubbard; Dirk Smith; Hyla Senior; Jeff Neal; Samethia Brockington; Thaia Reynolds; Nakia Kelly; Trent Evans; Noreen Sumpter; Catina Cox; Nadira Pankey; Ajah Griffin; Gloria Hagley; Martin Kalanda; Joseph White; J.J. Jose; Jason Lewis; Raymond Hagans; Robin D.G. Kelley; Bobby Jackson; Dominique Reese; Eddie Cue & the entire iTunes Family including: Jill Harwell, Bruno Ybarra, David King, Egan Schulz, Alex Luke, Thuy-An Julien, and Robert Windom; Chris DiGirolamo & Two For The Show Media; Neal Sapper & New World N’ Jazz Radio promotions; Matt Hughes; Paul O’Halloran & The Simon & Schuster staff; Rief Rawyal; Jennifer Tusa & The INgrooves staff, and Heather Hill