diamanda galas
Diamanda Galás
“Round Midnight” from All the Way
(Intravenal Sound Operations)

Written or let’s say completed by Thelonious Monk around 1940 or so, “Round Midnight” is likely the most recorded or performed jazz standard composed by a jazz musician. It has thus been seriously messed with by more musical interpreters than just about anything else out there. Monk himself chipped away at it for years before giving birth to his little “Round Midnight”; Cootie Williams augmented and refined it, it is said, then through the years people like Dizzy Gillespie, Art Pepper and Miles Davis had their shape-changing ways with it. Now, if this piece was never “meant” to be played in such and such a way or originally intended no such emotions / images / reflections: So what? “Round Midnight” is there to be messed with; it has never been anything but messed with its entire life, usually with no Vaseline.

Even so, heh-heh, perhaps no one yet has fucked with “Round Midnight” quite the way Diamanda Galás does in the solo piano version featured on her forthcoming All the Way album. Cry sacrilege! all you want about the way she so willfully obliterates the hallowed tune, then so, uh, tough-lovingly puts it back together again. Deconstruction we don’t want to call it; Galás approaches the song circuitously, as if offstage it’s already been shattered; she builds a new, very personal symmetry by compiling references to the piece’s constituent parts, foreshadowing implied or previously stated moods, thoughts. Galás starts the excavation with agitated though not unhumorous fragments; she slows to brief sustained chords, cleansing the palate; she tickles and hints back in, a taste of the thematic sweetness within, because after all what does happen after midnight? Lotta things, and this is a love song, it’s got to be split-toned and multifarious.

Galás’ left hand –– best in the piano-pumpin’ bizness –– is what this tune always needs, what with its barrelhouse roots, then again maybe her “Round Midnight” protagonist’s got the DTs. Doesn’t matter, he/she’s suffering, anyway, so here we have four minutes 17 seconds of Galás’ deep-rooted intellect & intuition, feral, sexed-up brain power and perfervid athleticism in service to an empathy for those any of us who suffer, over love or something like it.
–– John Payne








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