139

Monk

Suzanne Lorge By

Sign in to view read count
Rome Neal/Laurence Holder
Monk
DVD; 90 minutes
2005

Pianist Thelonious Monk cut an elusive figure throughout his public life as an innovator of early bebop. The very mystery surrounding Monk as a personality is what makes the one-man play Monk, now available on DVD, compelling viewing.

The ninety-minute theater piece begs this simple question: Just what was Monk thinking? Playwright Laurence Holder and actor Rome Neal give us complex answers. The play, filmed at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, traces Monk's life chronologically from his early years as a church musician through his career on the vanguard of the bebop movement to his demise in relative seclusion.

Rather than a point-by-point narration of Monk's life, however, Holder and Neal focus on Monk's struggle to articulate his inner reality, a reality sometimes clouded by narcotics and possibly mental illness. Monk's triumph, in the end, the play suggests, lay in his ability to defy the inner chattering and outer naysayers long enough to create an enduring musical legacy.

Neal renders an engaging Thelonious Monk, making full use of a simple set with his inspired dancing, his modest costume changes and his resonant voice. The original score is by Bill Lee, who also scores son Spike's films. Of particular interest is a bonus track that includes, among others, an interview with Ossie Davis, most likely one of Davis' last interviews before his death in February 2005.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary DVD/Film Reviews Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: July 4, 2017
Read The Who At The Isle of Wight Festival 2004 DVD/Film Reviews The Who At The Isle of Wight Festival 2004
by Doug Collette
Published: June 3, 2017
Read Fathom Events Presents "The Grateful Dead Movie" DVD/Film Reviews Fathom Events Presents "The Grateful Dead Movie"
by Doug Collette
Published: April 30, 2017
Read I Called Him Morgan at Belfast Film Festival 2017 DVD/Film Reviews I Called Him Morgan at Belfast Film Festival 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 4, 2017
Read I Called Him Morgan by Kasper Collin DVD/Film Reviews I Called Him Morgan by Kasper Collin
by Christine Connallon
Published: March 24, 2017
Read "The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi" DVD/Film Reviews The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi
by Marc Davis
Published: December 16, 2016
Read "Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary" DVD/Film Reviews Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: July 4, 2017
Read "I Called Him Morgan at Belfast Film Festival 2017" DVD/Film Reviews I Called Him Morgan at Belfast Film Festival 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 4, 2017
Read "I Called Him Morgan by Kasper Collin" DVD/Film Reviews I Called Him Morgan by Kasper Collin
by Christine Connallon
Published: March 24, 2017
Read "Bill Frisell: A Portrait" DVD/Film Reviews Bill Frisell: A Portrait
by John Kelman
Published: March 14, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.