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Performances Song History

Blue Monk

Music: Thelonius Monk

Vocals: Instrumental

Original Artist: Thelonius Monk

Original Album: Mysterioso (1954)

Debut: 1987-02-21

Historian: Ellis Godard

For over a decade, this song was labeled on tapes only as “Swing Tune” or with a simple question mark. An offbeat midsection and the lack of vocals make the title harder to recall, but “Blue Monk” has been recorded by scores of artists, and the opening melody is as recognizable as many jazz standards. The 1960s alone included dozens of versions, but some of the more interesting versions came three decades later, such as those by Aki Takase and David Murray (1991), McCoy Tyner and Bobby Hutcherson (1994, with Hutcherson on marimba), and Giovanni Hidalgo (1997). Bill Evans’ (1963) version is of particular note, as Page seems to mimic it for Phish’s renditions.

The debut was only recently re-discovered; fans are more likely to have heard Phish's second version, on 8/12/89: Near the end of a wedding reception, Trey recalls “what great dancing we had going on before the tossing of the bouquet and garter, and this time we’re hoping to get some other members of the party to get out on the floor for some ... real dancing, we’ll call it.” Then, before launching into Phish standards “I Didn’t Know” and “You Enjoy Myself,” they play “Blue Monk” to try and draw the older crowd onto the dance floor. We’re glad to be able to name the tune for the Phish fan community, but we’ll probably never know whether it helped diversify the dancing. Also be sure to check out the "Possum" from 6/1/90 for "Blue Monk" teases from Trey.

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