Thelonious Monk: Blue Monk

17 Feb

Thelonius Monk

Thelonius Monk: Pure Monk

Remembering pianist Thelonious Monk on the anniversary of his death in 1982.

In 1964, Monk — not Coltrane, not Miles, not Sonny Rollins — was on the cover of Time Magazine: Jazz, Bebop and Beyond. Inside, the story was headlined: The Loneliest Monk.

Mysterious might have been just as, or more, apt an adjective. There’s much we may never know for certain about Monk — was he reclusive, ill, lonely, moody, complicated, eccentric? All of the above? Some? Were the drugs that cost him his New York cabaret card in 1951 his or Bud Powell’s? Why did he stop performing nearly a decade before his death?

This much we do know: His middle name was Sphere, he was, by all accounts, devoted to his family, and he left behind a treasure trove of music to listen to (link to Blue Monk below). And the Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies thinks he was amazing. They’re right, of course.

Monk suffered a stroke in February of 1982 and died 12 days later without regaining consciousness. He was 64 when he died.

From the Time magazine story (link below): “Monk’s inimitable piano style is such an integral part of the music he has written that few jazz pianists have much luck with even the Monk tunes that have become part of the standard jazz repertory.”

Time Magazine: The Loneliest Monk


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