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Interviewed by Dave Morecroft on Monk for #jazz100

Peter, how did you first come across Monk as a pianist and what were your immediate impressions?

My first memory of experiencing Monk's music was learning to play Straight, No Chaser. Like a lot of his tunes it sounds deceptively simple and yet has a rhythmic twist that is unexpected and memorable. I love the way he plays with the listener taking you to unexpected places and breaking conventions in his compositions and improvisations (including dancing around the piano when other band members played their solos).

What do you think was so significant about his style and how is that relevant for jazz 100 years later?

Monk had incredible confidence in his style of playing. Whatever he played had conviction even if it was unconventional. That's why his music speaks to so many people today because it's direct and playful. He treated the piano in a much more percussive style than his contemporaries, almost as if each key was a drum. He influenced pianists like Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Jason Moran and countless other artists beyond the jazz world. I get the impression that Monk was very accepting of whatever he played and wherever the music went. I hope that musicians today aspire to feel the same way about their music making. I certainly do.

As a young jazz musician in the UK what is exciting you right now?

There are a crop of young musicians who are writing and performing some really great music at the moment – saxophonist Nubya Garcia, bass player Daniel Casimir, pianist Ashley Henry and Tuba player Theon Cross all have their own groups and recordings. They've all got very promising careers ahead of them and I highly recommend checking them out.

Peter Edwards has been commissioned by Turner Sims and Tomorrow's Warriors Live to write a piece around the many centenaries this year. Journey with the Giants of Jazz will be performed in London on 8 July at the Clore Ballroom, Southbank Centre.


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