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Thelonious Monk - Music Biography, Credits and Discography : AllMusic

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Thelonious Monk
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by Scott Yanow

biography [-]

The most important jazz musicians are the ones who are successful in creating their own original world of music with its own rules, logic, and surprises. Thelonious Monk, who was criticized by observers who failed to listen to his music on its own terms, suffered through a decade of neglect before he was suddenly acclaimed as a genius; his music had not changed one bit in the interim. In fact, one of the more remarkable aspects of Monk's music was that it was fully formed by 1947 and he saw no need to alter his playing or compositional style in the slightest during the next 25 years. Thelonious Monk grew up in New York, started playing piano when he was around five, and had his first job touring as an accompanist to an evangelist. He was inspired by the Harlem stride pianists (James P. Johnson was a neighbor) and vestiges of that idiom can be heard in his later unaccompanied solos. However, when he was playing in the house band of Minton's Playhouse during 1940-1943, Monk was searching for his own individual style. Private recordings from the period find him sometimes resembling Teddy Wilson but starting to use more advanced rhythms and harmonies. He worked with Lucky Millinder a bit in 1942 and was with the Cootie Williams Orchestra briefly in 1944 (Williams recorded Monk's "Epistrophy" in 1942 and in 1944 was the first to record "'Round Midnight"), but it was when he became Coleman Hawkins' regular pianist that Monk was initially noticed. He cut a few titles with Hawkins (his recording debut) and, although some of Hawkins' fans complained about the eccentric pianist, the veteran tenor could sense the pianist's greatness. The 1945-1954 period was very difficult for Thelonious Monk. Because he left a lot of space in his rhythmic solos and had an unusual technique, many people thought that he was an inferior pianist. His compositions were so advanced that the lazier bebop players (although not Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker) assumed that he was crazy. And Thelonious Monk's name, appearance (he liked funny hats), and personality (an occasionally uncommunicative introvert) helped to brand him as some kind of nut. Fortunately, Alfred Lion of Blue Note believed in him and recorded Monk extensively during 1947-1948 and 1951-1952. He also recorded for Prestige during 1952-1954, had a solo set for Vogue in 1954 during a visit to Paris, and appeared on a Verve date with Bird and Diz. But work was very sporadic during this era and Monk had to struggle to make ends meet. His fortunes slowly began to improve. In 1955, he signed with Riverside and producer Orrin Keepnews persuaded him to record an album of Duke Ellington tunes and one of standards so his music would appear to be more accessible to the average jazz fan. In 1956 came the classic Brilliant Corners album, but it was the following year when the situation permanently changed. Monk was booked into the Five Spot for a long engagement and he used a quartet that featured tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. Finally, the critics and then the jazz public recognized Thelonious Monk's greatness during this important gig. The fact that he was unique was a disadvantage a few years earlier when all modern jazz pianists were expected to sound like Bud Powell (who was ironically a close friend), but by 1957 the jazz public was looking for a new approach. Suddenly, Monk was a celebrity and his status would not change for the remainder of his career. In 1958, his quartet featured the tenor of Johnny Griffin (who was even more compatible than Coltrane), in 1959 he appeared with an orchestra at Town Hall (with arrangements by Hall Overton), in 1962 he signed with Columbia and two years later was on the cover of Time. A second orchestra concert in 1963 was even better than the first and Monk toured constantly throughout the 1960s with his quartet which featured the reliable tenor of Charlie Rouse. He played with the Giants of Jazz during 1971-1972, but then in 1973 suddenly retired. Monk was suffering from mental illness and, other than a few special appearances during the mid-'70s, he lived the rest of his life in seclusion. After his death it seemed as if everyone was doing Thelonious Monk tributes. There were so many versions of "'Round Midnight" that it was practically a pop hit! But despite the posthumous acclaim and attempts by pianists ranging from Marcus Roberts to Tommy

photo credit: Don Hunstein

GENRES STYLES

Jazz Bop Hard Bop Modal Music Post-Bop Jazz Instrument Mainstream Jazz Modern Big Band Piano Jazz Progressive Jazz

ACTIVE BORN

1940s - 1980s October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, NC February 17, 1982 in Weehawken, NJ Thelonious Sphere Monk

DIED

ALIASES

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Thelonious Monk - Music Biography, Credits and Discography : AllMusic

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Flanagan to recreate his style, there was no replacement for the original. Some of Thelonious Monk's songs became standards early on, most notably "'Round Midnight," "Straight No Chaser," "52nd Street Theme," and "Blue Monk." Many of his other compositions have by now been figured out by other jazz musicians and are occasionally performed including "Ruby My Dear," "Well You Needn't," "Off Minor," "In Walked Bud," "Misterioso," "Epistrophy," "I Mean You," "Four in One," "Criss Cross," "Ask Me Now," "Little Rootie Tootie," "Monk's Dream," "Bemsha Swing," "Think of One," "Friday the 13th," "Hackensack," "Nutty," "Brilliant Corners," "Crepuscule With Nellie" (written for his strong and supportive wife), "Evidence," and "Rhythm-a-Ning," Virtually all of Monk's recordings (for Blue Note, Prestige, Vogue, Riverside, Columbia, and Black Lion) have been reissued and among his sidemen through the years were Idrees Sulieman, Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, Lou Donaldson, Lucky Thompson, Max Roach, Julius Watkins, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Gerry Mulligan, John Coltrane, Wilbur Ware, Shadow Wilson, Johnny Griffin, Donald Byrd, Phil Woods, Thad Jones, and Charlie Rouse. His son Thelonious Monk, Jr. (T.S. Monk) has helped keep the hard bop tradition alive with his quintet and has headed the Thelonious Monk Institute, whose yearly competitions succeed in publicizing talented young players.
COLLAPSE

artist moods
- Complex Earthy Exuberant Humorous Passionate Quirky Sophisticated Whimsical Ambitious Brash Earnest Elaborate Lively - Confident Enigmatic Freewheeling Irreverent Playful Searching Stylish Witty Amiable/GoodNatured Dramatic Effervescent Literate Reflective

discography
Year

list
Title

condensed
Label

MAIN ALBUMS

COMPILATIONS

DVDS & VIDEOS

Editors' Rating

Average User Rating

1952

Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1 Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 2 Thelonious Monk/Milt Jackson Thelonious Monk Quintet

Discovery
(11)

1952

Blue Note
(57)

- Rousing - Stately - Uplifting

- Sprawling - Thoughtful - Wry 1952

Blue Note

No User Ratings

artist themes
- Maverick - Cool & Cocky - Drinking - Guys Night Out - Housework - Rainy Day - TGIF - The Creative Side - Day Driving - Girls Night Out - Hanging Out - Night Driving - Road Trip 1953 JVC Compact Discs
No User Ratings

1954

Blue Monk, Vol. 1

Prestige Records

No User Ratings

1954

Blue Monk, Vol. 2

Prestige Records

No User Ratings

1954

Monk

Original Jazz Classics


(7)

1954

Thelonious Monk Quintets

Prestige Records

No User Ratings

1954

Thelonious Monk Trio

Fantasy / Prestige Records


(7)

1954

Thelonious Monk [1953]

Prestige Elite Records (Japan) / Prestige Records

(1)

1954

Thelonious Monk and Joe Turner in Paris

Vogue / RCA

No User Ratings

1954

We See [Dreyfus]

Dreyfus Records

No User Ratings

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Thelonious Monk - Music Biography, Credits and Discography : AllMusic

1955

Plays Duke Ellington

Riverside Records
(1)

1955

Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins

Prestige Records / Original Jazz Classics


(22)

1956

Broken Hearted Blues

Riverside Records

No User Ratings

1956

Riverside Trios

Milestone Records
(1)

1956

The Unique Thelonious Monk Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols

Original Jazz Classics


(2)

1956

Savoy
(1)

1957

Brilliant Corners

OJC / Riverside
(122)

1957

Monk's Music

Original Jazz Classics


(40)

1957

Mulligan Meets Monk

Origin Records / Original Jazz Classics

(3)

1957

Thelonious Himself

Fantasy / Riverside Records

(5)

1958

Misterioso

Original Jazz Classics


(8)

1958

At the Five Spot Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk New York with Johnny Griffin

Prestige Records / Concord / Milestone Records

No User Ratings

1958

Atlantic
(64)

1958

Atlantic

No User Ratings

1959

In Person The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall

Milestone Records

No User Ratings

1959

Original Jazz Classics


(14)

1959

5 by Monk by 5

Original Jazz Classics


(18)

1959

Alone in San Francisco

Original Jazz Classics / OJC / Riverside

(76)

1960

Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two at the Blackhawk

Original Jazz Classics


(2)

1960

Evidence

France's Concert
(1)

1961

Monk in France

OJC / Riverside

No User Ratings

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Thelonious Monk - Music Biography, Credits and Discography : AllMusic

1961

The First European Concert

magnetic

No User Ratings

1961

Monk in Italy

Original Jazz Classics / OJC / Riverside


No User Ratings

1961

Monk in Bern

magnetic

No User Ratings

1961

Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane

Original Jazz Classics / OJC / Riverside / Riverside Records


(33)

1961

Blues Five Spot

Milestone Records

No User Ratings

1961

Live in Stockholm, Vol. 1

Thelonious

No User Ratings

1961

Live in Stockholm, Vol. 2

Thelonious

No User Ratings

1962

Monk's Dream

Columbia
(37)

1963

Monk in Tokyo

Legacy / Sony Music Distribution

(1)

1963

Tokyo Concerts

Sony Music Distribution

No User Ratings

1963

Thelonious Monk 1963 in Japan Live at the Village Gate

Four Star
(1)

1963

Prevue

No User Ratings

1963

Big Band and Quartet in Concert

Legacy / Columbia
(5)

1963

Criss-Cross

Columbia
(13)

1963

Monterey Jazz Festival '63 Two Hours with Thelonious Monk, Vol. 1 Two Hours with Thelonious Monk, Vol. 2

Storyville

No User Ratings

1963

Riverside Records

No User Ratings

1963

No User Ratings

1964

Live in Paris, Vol. 1

Explore Records
(2)

1964

Live in Paris, Vol. 2

Explore Records
(3)

1964

Live at the It Club

Sony Music Distribution


(3)

1964

Solo Monk

Sony Music Distribution


(12)

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Thelonious Monk - Music Biography, Credits and Discography : AllMusic

1964

Live at the Jazz Workshop

TriStar Music

No User Ratings

1964

It's Monk's Time

Sony Music Distribution


(3)

1964

Live in Paris at the Alhambra (1964)

France's Concert

No User Ratings

1965

Olympia (23 May 1965)

Disc Trema

No User Ratings

1965

Monk.

Legacy / Columbia/Legacy
(1)

1966

Live in Switzerland (1966)

Jazz Helvet

No User Ratings

1967

On Tour in Europe

Charly Records

No User Ratings

1967

Live in Paris (1967)

France's Concert

No User Ratings

1967

Live in Paris, Vol. 3

Thelonious

No User Ratings

1967

Nonet: Live!

Le Jazz

No User Ratings

1967

Straight, No Chaser

Legacy / Columbia/Legacy
(9)

1968

Monk's Blues

Columbia
(2)

1968

The Prophet

Get Back Records

No User Ratings

1968

Underground Jazz Soundtracks: Bird/Straight No Chaser/Round Midnight Two Hours with Thelonious: Paris and Milan Concerts Unissued Live at Newport 1958-59

Columbia
(22)

2004

Sony Jazz / Sony Music Distribution

No User Ratings

Fresh Sound

No User Ratings

In Crowd

No User Ratings

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Thelonious Monk - Music Biography, Credits and Discography : AllMusic

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