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Thelonious Monk: Genius of Modern Music, Volume 1 – Blue Note 1510

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There's bebop, there's hard bop--and then there's Thelonious Monk. It's not hard to imagine where the bebop pioneers found their new sound in the late 1940s, after World War II. It emerged from the big bands, which were dying. It was a natural progression. Hard-charging, uber-fast soloists pushed the limits of speed and rhythm, to the chagrin of the jazz establishment, but to the thrill of listeners. It was new, but it wasn't a giant leap--more of an incremental step. Thelonious Monk was there. But it's clear from Genius of Modern Music, Volume 1, that Monk ...


Kissing Cousins: Jazz + poetry = jazz poetry

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Believe it or not there have been times when jazz and poetry intertwine. The music inspires the poetry and creates a non-mainstream style of writing... jazz poetry. Innovations in music and poetics in the early part of the 20th century surfaced in the 1920's. The simultaneous evolution of poetry and jazz music was not lost upon musicians and writers of the time. The two art forms merge and form the genre of jazz poetry. However, note that there's a distinction between poets who write about jazz music (jazz-related poetry) and poets who capture the tone, rhythm and cadence ...


Thelonious Monk: Newport '59

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Only with hindsight can it be ascertained that 1959 marked the pinnacle of jazz music as a cultural force in the United States. In 1959, the Mount Rushmore presidents of jazz were recording their definitive statements: John Coltrane's Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1960), Dave Brubeck's Time Out (Columbia, 1959), Charles Mingus' Ah Um (Columbia, 1959), Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue (Columbia, 1959) and Ornette Coleman's The Shape Of Jazz To Come (Atlantic, 1959).That year also signaled the upcoming split of allegiances for the post-World War II generations between jazz and the baby boomers' rock 'n' roll. At the center ...


Thelonious Monk: The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside

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One fundamental paradox of compilation albums is the way so many good ones ultimately render themselves useless. Consider how many hits packages sit untouched on the shelves of aficionados, doomed to a lifetime of neglect simply for having the gall to work efficiently as the conversion tools they were intended to be. Consequently, a great compilation requires a functionality beyond simply being a commercially-endorsed mix CD. The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside spans the great pianist/composer's most revered era (1952-1960), and appears outwardly as nothing special: It unearths nothing unfamiliar, runs in obvious chronological order, and culls almost ...


Thelonious Monk: Monk's Music

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Many albums in the Original Jazz Classics reissue series include alternate takes or tracks recorded for, but ultimately not included on, the original vinyl LP. The label's 2011 Remasters edition of pianist Thelonious Monk's Monk's Music (Riverside, 1957) is no exception--but is something of a first, in that “Blues For Tomorrow," the 13:33 minute bonus track, does not include a single note from the leader. The track was recorded on June 25, 1957, in the closing minutes of an otherwise unproductive session. Monk, unusually, arrived on time, but was distracted with worry about his wife, Nellie, who was ...


New Voices and the American Song Book

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Monk Vocal CompetitionKennedy CenterWashington, D.C.October, 2010 One of the premier jazz events of the year, the annual Thelonious Monk competition rarely fails to deliver. Each year the jazz elite gather to celebrate the legacy of Thelonious Monk and to recognize up-and-coming talents of the jazz world via a competition that rotates among instruments. When hosted by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., an aura of political weight is inevitably added to the evening as Congressmen--and this year, President Barak Obama together with Michelle Obama--affix their names to the list of honoree ...


Four In One: Monk From Four Different Angles

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Superstitions tend to hold sway over many, otherwise, rational people. Plenty of us avoid walking under ladders, knock on wood and partake in countless other rituals that, while lacking in sound reasoning, certainly make us feel better and bring us comfort in our daily lives. Brides-to-be even fall into this category and believe that it will bring them luck to wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue on their wedding day.While each of these items represents different things to the bride, they also have strong connection to jazz. The Old represents the past--traditions ...


Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

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Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American OriginalRobin D.G. KelleyFree PressISBN: 06848319022009

This is an authoritative tome that pulls aside, without completely lifting, the shroud of mystery that has long surrounded one of the most enigmatic figures in the history of jazz. Exhaustively researched over a period of more than a decade, Kelley, who spoke with nearly every one of his subject's living relatives, friends and colleagues, paints a vibrant portrait of Monk, the man and the musician, within the context of the times in which he lived. ...


Thelonious Monk Quintet: Monk

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The remastered Monk is actually two mini-sets melded into one with the first quintet consisting of the underrated trumpeter Ray Copeland, tenor saxophonist Frank Foster and bassist Curly Russell, with the legendary Art Blakey holding it all together on drums. These first four tracks (including a beautiful rendition of the Jerome Kern classic “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes") are upbeat and decidedly lighter in tone. This half ends with a masterfully syncopated solo by Blakey on the jaunty “Hackensack," named after the New Jersey town where the set was recorded in 1954. The last three tracks were ...


The Definitive Monk Bio: So, Was He Crazy, or What?

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Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, by Robin D. G. Kelley, was published in the fall of 2009.

It arrived surrounded by buzz that, since the author had unprecedented access to the Monk family, he could finally answer those lingering questions about his “mental illness"--as in, was Thelonious schizophrenic, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, or something else?

The book is dense, with 588 pages of meticulous detail. After a few chapters I decided to scan the index for mentions of bipolar disorder, and judge the relevant evidence for myself. (In the process, I was ...


Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

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Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American OriginalRobin D.G. KelleyFree PressISBN: 06848319022009

Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original is a meticulously documented, yet easy-to-read chronicle of the roller coaster life of pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. It took Robin Kelley, a professor of History and American Studies at The University of Southern California, 14 years to complete, and is a sometimes humourous, but often grim, account of Monk's determination to succeed in an ecomonically marginal profession while properly providing for his wife and children. ...


Thelonious Monk: Pianists Riff on Monk

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This month, over a dozen pianists will participate in a free concert, Thelonious Monk at 92, at the World Financial Center in lower Manhattan. Seven of them, and two other pianists with an abiding interest in Monk, answered questions about Monk's music and more specifically, his piano playing, as influence and inspiration. Jazz pianists may disagree about whether or not Thelonious Monk was the “high priest" of bebop who, in Geri Allen's words, “set the tone for the most revolutionary period in jazz--bebop" or if he, as Randy Weston says, “could never be called bebop" since he ...


Thelonious Monk: Thelonious Himself

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When producer Orrin Keepnews undertook this album for Riverside in 1957, Thelonious Monk had recorded relatively little as a solo pianist--nine tracks for French Vogue in 1954 and single tracks on Prestige and Riverside LPs. While the Vogue had emphasized Monk's originals and the single tracks were all old tunes, Thelonious Himself (Riverside/OJC, 1957) balanced his unique approach to standards with striking performances of originals. Whether fragmented, dissonant or oddly hesitant, Monk's probing (the usage is literal, heard in the repeated arpeggio that opens the alternate Take 1 of “I Should Care") into standards were often stunning adventures in a ...


Monk Competition 2008: Saxophones

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Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Jazz Saxophone Competition Schoenberg Hall, UCLA Los Angeles, California October 25, 2008The 12 semifinalists at Saturday's competition this year were so close in musicianship that it was nearly impossible to determine who should be named a finalist. The 2008 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Jazz Saxophone Competition featured tenor, alto, baritone and soprano saxophones as each semifinalist had 15 minutes to show his wares. Each performed three pieces with sterling support from pianist Geoffrey Keezer, double bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Carl Allen, showing ...

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