I was thinking is there anything better
than chorus girls dancing in unison to Thelonius Monk
I beseech thee Lord on my deathbed kick my
Jazz photography has played an important role in the development of jazz, and, along with the art found on the record albums of the 1940’s – 60’s, is a visual window into the history of the culture. The work of photographers like Herman Leonard, William Claxton and Lee Tanner impacted me pretty deeply, and led me deep into the record bins in search of the music they so effectively portrayed. Leonard and Tanner, in fact, were major influences on my work on this site, and Tanner was indeed a personal mentor whose voice of encouragement remains in my head long after his 2013 passing.
Among the first interviews I ever did was in 1997 with William Gottlieb, best known as a
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. In this edition, Art Blakey tells a story of Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane that took place during the 1957 recording session of Monk’s Music.
This pianist was a founding member of the Jazz Epistles, and was nicknamed “South Africa’s Monk”? Who is he?
Go to the next page for the answer!
We have stood over record bins, thumbing through his records, moved by his breathtaking originality and creativity.
We have made friends over his music, made love to it, cruised in the car to it, introduced our children to it, and defended it against those who don’t quite comprehend his genius.
We love the emotions his music brings out in us – joy, tears, humor, inspiration.
We continue to sit up when we hear “Straight, No Chaser,” marvel at the brilliance of
full of bees again,
flapping in a stuttering breeze,
high up on
In the circus mind of my dying spirit
I listen for the tinkling keys of Monk-
Yeah, Monk Mingus moonlight madness
I long to be, though tonight it’s a new
moon, meaning no moon and my madness
If you do a blindfold test and play Monk, the listener is likely going to know it’s him after about two bars. Everything about the way he approaches the piano and music is so distinctive. People used to use words like idiosyncratic and eccentric, but there is, of course, more than that — there is a tremendous beauty in Monk’s music, and it is peculiar to him. Everything about his attack, the particular percussiveness of his style, his use of chords, his astonishing time, can only be described as “Monkian.” And in terms of his almost exclusive reliance on jazz, most great jazz pianists have some
“The piano ain’t got no wrong notes!” So ranted Thelonious Sphere Monk, who proved his point every time he sat down at the keyboard. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest composers. Yet throughout much of his life, his musical contribution took a backseat to tales of his reputed behavior. Writers tended to obsess over Monk’s hats or his proclivity to dance on stage. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. But these labels tell us little about the man or his
A record store on Wabash was where
I bought my first album. I was a freshman
in college and played the record in my room
over and over. I was caught by how he took
the musical phrase and seemed to find a new
way out, the next note was never the note
you thought would turn up and yet seemed