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Thelonious Monk

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  • March 1, 2013
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Logan Whaley
Biography
Improvisation IV

Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk is known as one of the most unique, inimitable piano players of all time. Monk was both ahead of his time, and deeply rooted in tradition, and used his extraordinary gift of perfect pitch to learn songs and memorize them fast. Thelonious had a love for the piano from a young age, and grew up in Manhattan around lots of musicians. After failing academically as a young high school student he decided to drop out of school and pursue being a musician. He went on tour with an evangelic healer for 2 years, shortly after dropping out. When he came back home he was playing out as much as possible. His reputation grew as one of the best around as he began to grow. He was co-house pianist at a club called “Minton’s Playhouse” with Bud Powell. The after- hours jam sessions that went on there, along with a number of other jazz clubs, gave birth to what is now known as ‘be-bop.’ Musicians he played with were Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Mary Lou Williams, Kenny Clarke, Oscar Pettiford, Max Roach, Tadd Dameron, to name a few. The jam sessions that took place here were inspiring many musicians of the day. From the time Thelonious was on the scene this new thing called ‘modern jazz’ was emerging, and people either really liked it or didn’t understand it at all. And Monk was the leader of modern-jazz. No one was playing the way Monk did, he was just purely original. When Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie had questions regarding music they went to Monk for the answer. Monk was annoyed when he heard people praising ‘Bird’ and ‘Dizzy’ saying that started the revolution to modern jazz. Monk said this in an interview with a French ‘Jazz magazine’: “I feel like I have contributed more to modern jazz than all of the other musicians combined. That’s why I don’t like to hear: ‘Gillespie and Parker’ brought the revolution to Jazz’ When I know most of the ideas came from me. Dizzy and Bird did nothing...