February 14, 2017 Thelonious Monk’s advice to musos is still great today

“Always leave them wanting more.”

That’s good advice no matter you’re doing, but way back in the Dark Ages of 1960, when saxophonist Steve Lacy wrote down a bunch of advice from American jazz legend Thelonious Monk, it was all about the music.

Now, there are plenty of modern-day performers you can listen to for advice. Beyoncé might tell you what Prince told her: “Don’t be scared. Come on, belt it out.” Adele will say it’s OK to start again when you stuff up, especially if you’re dedicating your song to a friend who has passed. Cee Lo Green will advise you to invest in gold paint.

But Monk had a bunch of hard-won wisdom to share. Even if you aren’t familiar with his extensive catalogue, it’s bound to get you in the right headspace to dominate that crowd waiting at your feet to have their faces rocked:


If you’re struggling to read Saxoophone Steve’s scrawl, some of the highlights are:

  • “Don’t play everything; let some things go by
  • “You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?”
  • “Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig, and when it comes, he’s out of shape and can’t make it”
  • “What should we wear tonight? Sharp as possible!“, and
  • “Whatever you think can’t be done, someone will come along and do it.”

Thelonious Monk didn’t give away all his trade secrets, of course. If you want to know why, reread the first sentence of this article…

Shane Cubis
is a contributor to A•STAR