What: T.S. Monk

When: 7 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Jazz at the Oxford, The Oxford Hotel, 10 NW Minnesota Ave., Bend

Cost: Sold out

Contact: jazzattheoxford.com or 541-382-8436

When a teenage Thelonious Sphere “T.S.” Monk III wanted to learn to play drums, his father, Thelonious Monk, sent him to frequent collaborator Max Roach. Decades later, in the early ’90s, Roach got T.S. Monk to pick up his drumsticks again.

Monk helped facilitate the first outreach program with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz: a tour of 10 North Carolina high schools in 12 days featuring Roach and a demonstration quintet.

Right before the tour was to start, the drummer for the demo band had to step out, and the institute convinced Monk to play drums for the tour.

At the time, Monk hadn’t played in six years, following the back-to-back deaths of sisters Barbara Monk and girlfriend Yvonne Fletcher in 1983 and 1984, respectively, from breast cancer.

And Monk had been playing R&B, not jazz; he had a number of hits in the early ’80s with his band with Barbara and Fletcher, including 1980’s “Bon Bon Vie (Gimme the Good Life).”

Monk thought he’d be able to ease back into playing — after all, it was only a demo band. But Roach had other plans.

“What actually happened was, the morning of the first master class with Max, the sound crew was bringing in the equipment, and I was standing there with Max Roach,” Monk said. “And they asked me, ‘Mr. Monk, where should we set up the drums?’ And I said, ‘Well, set up Mr. Roach’s drums over here, and then you can set up my drum set over there next to the piano and the bass and all that.’ To my shock, total shock, Max Roach says, ‘Uh, no, no, no. Set my drum set up over here, and set his drum set up facing mine.’ And I mean, I almost died, because it was very, very clear that Max intended to have drum battles with me, and I hadn’t been playing in years.”

After 10 days of drum battles with his mentor, Monk began to think he could get back into jazz again. By 1992 he had formed the first version of the sextet that he still tours with today — in fact, tenor saxophonist Willie Williams has been with the group since the beginning. The sextet will give three performances Friday and Saturday to kick off the eighth season of Jazz at the Oxford and celebrate the 100th anniversary of Thelonious Monk’s birth.

Portland saxophonist Patrick Lamb curates the series for the third year in a row. The rest of the schedule includes former Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine performing with his New Trio on Nov. 17 and 18; founding Pink Martini singer China Forbes on Jan. 12 and 13; a Stevie Wonder tribute featuring top Portland players including Paul Creighton and Jarrod Lawson on Feb. 9 and 10; and up-and-coming smooth jazz vocalist Lindsey Webster on March 16 and 17.

The series’ educational programs will also return. Monk will hold a workshop at the hotel from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Saturday. The other workshops will be held at 11:15 a.m. Nov. 18, Feb. 10 and March 17.

“We’re basically continuing an offering of the best combination of national and regional artists in a series that (we) can provide,” Lamb said.

The Oxford sold out all five shows of its season last year despite competition from a new series, Riverhouse Jazz at Riverhouse on the Deschutes, spearheaded by Jazz at the Oxford founder Marshall Glickman. The Riverhouse series also returns Oct. 20 and 21.

“I think it’s incredible, and I think it’s exciting,” Lamb said. “There’s something about Bend, which really has that level of sophistication and appreciation of jazz music, which really is sort of like a good book. Not everybody wants to read ‘War and Peace,’ and that’s fine; some people want to read the funnies.”

When he spoke with GO!, Monk had just completed a two-night, four-show stand with his sextet at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz at Lincoln Center marking Thelonious Monk’s birthday Oct. 10. He was also struggling with a cold — apparently the whole band got sick, Monk’s wife, Gale, revealed when she called to reschedule the interview from morning to afternoon. But despite a slightly hoarse voice, Monk enthusiastically chatted for close to an hour.

Monk’s sets in Bend will be “very similar” to the Dizzy’s shows, with a focus on Thelonious Monk’s compositions, many of which he recorded on 1997’s all-star “Monk on Monk” album. The elder Monk, celebrated for his angular, kinetic piano-playing style and his contributions to the jazz-standard repertoire such as “Round Midnight,” “Straight, No Chaser” and “Blue Monk,” was called the “high priest of bebop” and helped usher in that style alongside artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

“Monk on Monk” marked the pianist’s 80th birthday. The younger Monk, who played in his father’s trio from 1970 to ’75, was initially pushed to record the tribute in 1992, right as he was getting back into performing jazz.

“By that time, I understood exactly who my father was, and the level of expertise and skill that his music really, really required, and I didn’t feel that I was ready at all,” Monk said. “Plus, I wanted to establish that I could play — I did not need my father’s music to play; I did not need my father’s music to front a band.”

Of course, Thelonious Monk had a big hand in kicking off his son’s musical career. Monk often tells the story onstage of how his father got Art Blakey to give him his first drum kit, then sent him to Roach for lessons. Though both drummers were collaborators and close friends of Thelonious, the pianist had a very specific reason for sending his son to Roach, the younger Monk said.

“Art was really my father’s closest friend,” Monk said. “… Thelonious loved them both dearly, but I think the difference between the two was that I think Thelonious really felt that substantively, Max was the cutting edge of where jazz drumming was going. And so I think that’s why he placed me with Max as opposed to Art — not that Art wasn’t one of the giants of modern jazz. But I think what Max had done — you have to understand that until Max Roach, you had musicians and you had drummers. And Max played in a fashion that made people understand that drummers were musicians too.”

The centennial will keep Monk and his sextet busy for the rest of the year, but the drummer is looking ahead to future recording projects — including his first studio album featuring his own compositions since 2003’s “Higher Ground.” He also teased a live album in the works. And he’s working on arranging newly discovered music written by his father, following the new piece “Two Timer” that appeared on “Monk on Monk.”

Twenty years on from “Monk on Monk,” Monk says he still feels like he’s “playing catchup.”

“I think I definitely play it better,” he said. “Because as far as I’m concerned, I took six years off — essentially from 1984 till 1991 — almost seven years off from my instrument. … In fact, the great tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet, who was just such an old-school hard-ass, right, he says to me one day, ‘You know, Monk, you ain’t never gonna get them goddamn years back.’ And that really — that charged my battery to get those years back.”

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