Thelonius Monk

The Impact of Thelonius Monk

Few musicians are gifted enough to set a standard by creating their own unique world of music. Those that are usually find it unnecessary to alter or change significantly throughout the life of their careers. Thelonius Monk was so gifted. Like those in every field of endeavor who break the mold and reveal new ground for those following Monk had an odd technique and unusual rhythmic solos that he was unafraid to play. This led to the belief for a long time that Monk was a sub-par pianist. The truth is that Monk was marching to the beat of a different drummer. He was hearing sounds far ahead of the pack. Often eccentric his flare for dressing added to the perception that he was slightly off the beaten path.

Thelonius Monk had his share of lean years in the business. There were countless days in which he never saw a square meal. It's fascinating that despite all of the trials and tribulations he could stay so true to the pursuit of his gift. Perhaps true genius is the urge to press forward at all costs. Time stands still for no one, and in 1957 the jazz world was calling for a new sound and approach. Monk rose to the occasion because he had stayed true to his own sense of direction. His whole approach was to avoid sounding like Bud Powell, and it is this ability to swim against the tide that made him an instant celebrity. So much in fact that his style was not to change for the remainder of his career.

Monk was off and running and in 1958 his gig featured sax man Johnny Griffin. This addition was an improvement over the time he spent with the creative and explosive John Coltrane. Perhaps the years 1971-1972 were his most formidable. He played with giants during this short span. Soon afterwards he retired. No doubt he was worn down by the strenuous life and mental illness that he battled his entire life.

The standard that he is best known for is "Round Midnight". It is such a popular tune that many artists find it almost a necessity to include it in their repertoire. Throughout his career Thelonius Monk was paired off with some of the greatest names in the business. This, perhaps more than anything, is a true testament to the man and his genius.

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