Harmonimonk — Rhythm-A-Ning #1 — Righting Rhythm-A-Wrongs
I’ve shied away from playing “Rhythm-A-Ning” because I continually screw up the phrasing of the head. It sounds easy but somehow I always end up coming in at the wrong place once I get past the first two bars of the A-section. Why is that? Since the phrasing challenges also happen to be where all the magic happens, the rigorous trickster logic that makes this head so appealing, I felt it necessary to explore the rhythmic organization of the melody and shed that in isolation. Here’s an annotated chart of the rhythmic layout of the A section melody:
And here are slow and fast versions of the A-section rhythm pattern:
Rests in these recordings are indicated using bass drum kicks. There’s a reason for using such a fundament-centric, obtrusive timbre detailed below.
Notice in the chart that rests are included in the phrases, not time-delimited dead spots between them. There is no dead space. Rests are best understood as units of charged, shapely silence. That’s why I used kick drum hits to indicate rests in the demonstration recordings:I think it’s helpful to hear unsounded time intervals with rhythmic definition as precise as sounded sequences. For example,you could call phrase 6 a dotted whole note rest but I feel it as six quarter note rests functioning as an antiphonal complement to the prior two phrases. Similarly, phrases 4 and 5 could be understood to start with dotted quarter note rests but I feel the articulation of 2 separate rhythmic units here.
Phrase 1 is very simple and phrase 2 is no great rhythmic shakes either. It’s worth noting that the phrase 2 rhythm is a modified repetition of phrase 1 rhythm : phrase 1 starts on the downbeat of beat 1 of the measure and consists of a sequence of 3 quarter notes and a quarter note rest; phrase 2 also starts on the downbeat of beat 1 and consists of a sequence of quarter notes, two eighth notes, and a quarter note rest.
Both phrases begin on the downbeat of the measure; both begin with a quarter note; both end with a quarter note rest. Phrase 2 substitutes 2 eighth notes for two quarter notes for the second and third elements in the rhythm sequence. This substitution shrinks the duration of phrase 2 to 3 beats while phrase 1 has a 4 beat duration.
Also worth noting is that both phrases are root position major triad arpeggios a perfect fourth apart with consonant relationships to the harmonic progression. So nothing too whack in the tonal domain either.
Phrase 3 gets a little tricky: after setting up the ear to expect yet another phrase to start on the downbeat of 1, Monk starts phrase 3 on the last beat of measure 2 with a half-note crossing the bar line. Once that little surprise is negotiated the rest of phrase 3 is rhythmically simple. Complementing this rhythmic simplicity is the tone sequence which descends using the pattern: up a diatonic second, down a diatonic third.
Phrase 4 is where the fun begins. It starts with a quarter note rest followed by an eighth note rest on downbeat 3 of measure three. This is followed by six notes starting on an upbeat with the rhythm pattern — eighth note, eighth note, quarter note, eight note, quarter note,quarter note. Phrase 5 is an exact repeat of phrase 4. Phrase 6 is six quarter note rests.