Jazz Friday: Happy Birthday Thelonious


This month we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Thelonious Monk’s birth. While I’ve featured some of Monk’s music in the past, I’ve never featured the man himself. It’s time to fix that.

Thelonious Monk was one of the founding fathers of bebop and is a jazz giant. Both his compositions and playing style changed the course of jazz music. Some of his compositions are legendary like, like Round Midnight. Monk was one of the best composers of his time. One song that stands out for me is Crepuscule with Nellie (iTunes)(Apple Music), which is a rare jazz song that does not provide for improvisation. It was a composition written, start to finish, as a love song to his wife. One of my absolute favorite songs is his Pannonica, which I butcher on the Piano with this downloadable track.

Monk also played piano like no one before. I distinctly remember hearing Monk for the first time in the 70’s. I was about ten years old and it floored me. I immediately went to my piano teacher and begged to play Monk music. She preferred Bach but I eventually figured it out on my own.

There are so many great Monk albums that it really is hard to recommend just one. One of my favorites is a two album set of him playing the piano without his band, Thelonious Alone in San Francisco (iTunes)(Apple Music). I also really enjoy his collaboration with John Coltrane (iTunes)(Apple Music).

If you’d like to learn more about Monk, I recommend the documentary, Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser (iTunes)(YouTube).

Anyway … Happy Birthday, Monk.