Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ernie Kovacs And Thelonious Monk

This has been rattling around in my mind for some time now: what are the similarities between these two wholly original geniuses, both heroes of mine? Some fun, some serious. Feel free to add more in the comments section.

1. From this article by Jeff Fitzgerald on the "All About Jazz" website:
"Ultimately, the legacy of Thelonious Monk is one of a genius incongruent with his age. Like television pioneer Ernie Kovacs, who was 60 years ahead of his time 50 years ago, we may still not have fully come to appreciate the body of work Monk left behind."
Yes. No argument here; this is the main and most important similarity.

2. As shown in the photo, both men favored cool specs, caps and facial hair. EK, however, never sported a beard except for the fake ones he would occasionally wear in bits (eg, Ernie as King Menelaus satirizing a scene from "Helen of Troy" by Euripides).

3. One of Monk's most famous tunes is a blues called "Straight No Chaser." Ernie liked his drinks that way, especially "'Round Midnight."

4. Both men had wives who absolutely adored them, realized their genius, then encouraged and supported it. For Ernie it was Edie and for Monk it was Nellie. That's not always easy to find. And Edie was a major talent in her own right. Just think what the world might have missed if it hadn't been for both of these great women.

5. Monk's REAL middle name is Sphere. That is too cool. While Ernie's middle name is fairly average his initials spell "EEK." That, in my humble opinion, is also too cool.

6. Ernie was gregarious and and spoke a great deal. Monk was introverted and didn't speak very much. Both men, however, would cause all heads to turn when they entered a room, because both men had a giant presence. When either man spoke their words had meaning and people listened. And, both men were hilariously funny.

7. Both men produced art that on the surface seems abstract and a bit rough around the edges, but upon closer inspection you come to realize that it's very logical and incomparably beautiful. And then you realize that you've never heard or seen anything like it.

8. Ernie and Monk both pushed boundaries, were fearless, ignored critics, broke rules and did things that people said couldn't, or shouldn't, be done. As a result doors were opened for artists everywhere. Who says you can't have milk flowing laterally out of a thermos or a tune that sounds beautiful even though it's loaded with minor seconds?

9. Both men were art forms unto themselves, owing to their singular originality. I would like to think Ernie loved Monk's music and Monk loved Ernie's comedy for this reason.

10. In the final analysis, Ernest Edward Kovacs and Thelonious Sphere Monk were both kind, decent men who advanced their respective art forms to new heights.

I'm sorry I never got to meet either one but am very grateful for the legacy each left behind.

Until next time, Kovacsians, "It's Been Real!"