Monk always saw drummers as a rhythmic and melodic partners. Drummers who could swing and had a sense of composition was what he required and you had to listen. Deep!
Art Blakey wrote the book on how to play with Monk and even he had problems. You can hear Art feeling his way around on Monks early Blue Note recordings. According to Monks biographer; Robin D. G. Kelley, Monks rehearsals and record dates could be long hair raising affairs. Brilliant Corners was one of Monks best and most controversial recordings it. The title tune was 30 bars long and moving from a dirge into double time placed enormous stress on the band which included Sonny Rollins and Max Roach. The tune finally had to be assembled from 25 different takes and this was after considerable rehearsal.
Max's drum solo on Brilliant Corners is of the best he ever recorded. His melodic sense and command of the form are remarkable. The solo would not have been possible without Max learning that thorny melody. Roy Haynes, Arthur Taylor, Frankie Dunlop and Ben Riley are among the greats who played and recorded with Monk and all of them went through the same drill. Their styles may have been different but they all learned the music and blazed the trail for the rest of us.
Playing Monks compositions has always been "big fun" for me and I know thats true for many other drummers. The feeling I get when playing his music is that he wrote it with the drums in mind and not as an afterthought
Monk always said "Learn the melody and then make a solo". Yeah!