Great Encounters #52: Monk, Hawk, and Coltrane in the studio, 1957

April 19th, 2018

“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.



Thelonious Monk, 1957

Coleman Hawkins, 1957

John Coltrane, 1957




The legendary jazz writer Nat Hentoff wrote in his 1976 book Jazz Is that Thelonious Monk was “one of the most liberating teachers in jazz” and had an impact on John Coltrane, “as on practically all the musicians who have played with him.  Monk kept insisting that musicians must keep working at stretching themselves, at going beyond their limitations, which really were artificial limitations that came from their having absorbed conventional – and thereby constricting – standards of what can and what cannot be done on an instrument.”

An example of Monk’s approach is found in this story told by the drummer Art Blakey, which appears in J.C. Thomas’ 1976 book, Coltrane: Chasin’ the Trane:

“I played drums on the Monk’s Music album [1957] for Riverside, where Monk expanded his group to a septet with both Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane on tenor.  Naturally, Monk wrote all the music, but Hawk was having trouble reading it, so he asked Monk to explain it to both Trane and himself.  Monk said to Hawk, ‘You’re the great Coleman Hawkins, right?  You’re the guy who invented the tenor saxophone, right?’  Hawk agreed.  Then Monk turned to Trane, “You’re the great John Coltrane, right?’  Trane blushed, and mumbled, ‘Aw…I’m not so great.’  Then Monk said to both of them, ‘You play the saxophone, right?’  They nodded.  ‘Well, the music is on the horn.  Between the two of you, you should be able to find it.’”





Excerpted from Coltrane:  Chasin’ the Trane, by J.C. Thomas



Share this:

2 comments on “Great Encounters #52: Monk, Hawk, and Coltrane in the studio, 1957”

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short


Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.


Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston


Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"


"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

Contributing writers

Site Archive