Jazz great Thelonious Monk had a genius for unusual and daring composition, for confounding and delighting the world. He did things with rhythm, melody and chords that had never quite been heard before.
Hip America swooned for his music and for his myth: the mystical, elusive “George Washington of bebop.” From the 1940s to the 1970s and beyond, the myth of Monk nearly overshadowed the man. But his music rolls on.
A new biography from Robin Kelley tells the story of the music and the man — of Coltrane and Chopin and genius and Monk.
This hour, On Point: a deep new look at the great jazzman Thelonious Monk.
Robin Kelley joins us from Los Angeles. Professor of history and American Studies at the University of Southern California, he’s the author of the new biography “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original.” You can read an excerpt here.
And from New York we’re joined by Matthew Shipp, jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader. His previous albums include “One,” “Harmony and Abyss,” and “Equilibrium.” His forthcoming album, available this January, is “4d.” You can hear him playing and talking about piano jazz at NPR.org.
Here’s a list of the Monk songs featured during the hour:
“In Walked Bud”
“This is My Story, This is My Song”
“Well, You Needn’t”
In this clip from the documentary “Straight No Chaser,” you can see Monk’s famous “dance” during a performance:
And here’s Monk playing his renowned composition “‘Round Midnight” in Norway in 1966: