Randy Weston, a pianist who studied with Mr. Monk, has called him ''as complete an original as it is possible to be'' and he cites the unifying ''simplicity'' in his music.
''Not that his music isn't often complex to execute,'' Mr. Weston explained, ''but it always comes through so clear and accurate, so uncluttered. His music is simple in the sense that it has totality of personality. It's all him.''
During a performance with his group, he often got up from the piano and went into an intense shuffling dance. This was his method of conducting. He might be setting a rhythmic pulse to move his musicians into the rhythm he wanted or simply checking to make sure that the performance was swinging properly.
He retired from touring and recording in the early seventies. His last recordings were made in Europe in November 1971 while on a 'Giants of Jazz' tour for George Wein.
During the 60's he led a quartet featuring Charlie Rouse on tenor, a group which recorded and toured extensively. He retired from touring and recording in the early seventies. His last recordings were made in Europe in November 1971 while on a 'Giants of Jazz' tour for George Wein.
Named for pianist/composer Thelonious Monk (1917-1982), the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz was created four years after his death through the efforts of the Monk family and the late Maria Fisher, a musical philanthropist and moving force behind the Beethoven Society of America who felt that jazz deserved nothing less than its own organization dedicated to nurturing and acknowledging musical greatness.
Monk began piano lessons as a young child and by the age of 13 he had won the weekly amateur contest at the Apollo Theater so many times that he was barred from entering. At the age of 19, Monk joined the house band at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, where along with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and a handful of other players, he developed the style of jazz that came to be known as bebop. Monk's compositions, among them "Round Midnight," were the canvasses upon which these legendary soloists expressed their musical ideas.
Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917-1982) is recognized as one of the most influential figures in the history of jazz. He was one of the architects of bebop and his impact as a composer and pianist has had a profound influence on every genre of music.
Monk helped create the revolutionary style in late-night jam sessions at clubs like Minton's Playhouse in Harlem. His compositions were cornerstones of the new sound and his influence was pervasive, but the man remained relatively obscure until he signed with Columbia Records in 1962 and recorded Monk's Dream, his biggest-selling album. In 1964, Monk found himself on the cover of Time magazine.
Even early in his career, Monk often insisted on showing up late to gigs, driving bandleaders, club owners and audiences to distraction. And on occasion he would simply fall asleep at the piano. He would also disappear to his room in the family apartment for two weeks at a time.
But the manic, erratic behavior turned out to be the precursor of a more serious bipolar illness that would over time become immobilizing. From his father, Thelonious Sr., who was gone from the scene by the time Monk was 11, Thelonious Jr. seems to have gotten his musical gene (there always seems to be one in there). But he also inherited his father’s illness.