Thelonious Monk

Monk, Thelonius

Thelonius Monk (Thelonius Sphere Monk), 1917–82, American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, b. Rocky Mount, N.C. Monk is considered one of the most important, and eccentric, figures in modern jazz. He spent most of his life in New York City, playing in nightclubs; in the 1940s he was one of the first players of bop. His style was astringent, marked by discordant harmonies, alternating rhythms, and melodic interpretations. There was a subtle mixture of cynicism, humor, and warmth in his interpretations. Among the many jazz pieces Monk composed, the best known is probably "Round Midnight." Others that have become standards include "Monk's Mood," "Straight No Chaser," "Crepuscule with Nellie," and "Epistrophy."

See biographies by L. Gourse (1997) and R. G. G. Kelley (2009); study ed. by R. Van Der Bliek (2001); C. Zwerin, dir., Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser (documentary film, 1989).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Epistrophies: Poems Celebrating Thelonius Monk and His Music
Feinstein, Sascha.
African American Review, Vol. 31, No. 1, Spring 1997
The Jazz Cadence of American Culture
Robert G. O'Meally.
Columbia University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Remembering Thelonious Monk: When the Music Was Happening, Then He'd Get Up and Do His Little Dance"
Jazz: A History
Frank Tirro.
W. W. Norton, 1993 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "The Pianists--Tadd Dameron, Bud Powell, and Thelonious Monk" begins on p. 316
The History of Jazz
Ted Gioia.
Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Thelonious Monk begins on p. 240
What Jazz Is: An Insider's Guide to Understanding and Listening to Jazz
Jonny King.
Walker, 1997
The Beauty of Building, Dwelling and Monk: Aesthetics, Religion and the Architectural Qualities of Jazz
Richter, Stephan.
African American Review, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer 1995
Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies
Robert G. O'Meally; Brent Hayes Edwards; Farah Jasmine Griffin.
Columbia University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Mainstreaming Monk: The Ellington Album" begins on p. 150
The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz
Leonard Feather; Ira Gitler.
Oxford University Press, 1999
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