17 February marks the day in 1982 that Jazz musician Thelonious Monk, died.
Monk, composed less than 100 pieces, yet is the second greatest selling Jazz artist, coming in behind Duke Ellington, who composed over 1,000 pieces.
Monk’s idiosyncratic live performances captured the imagination of the music loving public. Decked out in a variety of hats and often wearing dark sunglasses, he would pause mid performance to stand up and dance or twirl about. He would also bang away at the keyboard of his piano with splayed fingers in an unusual style.
Born in North Carolina and growing up in New York City, Monk was largely self-taught and never graduated High School.
Monk began participating in recording sessions in the late 1940’s and in 1954, on a trip to Paris, was introduced to Jazz Patron Baroness Pannonica “Nica” de Koenigswarter, who formed a close friendship that proved valuable to his personal stability and his career.
Monk signed with Columbia records in 1962 and produced such albums as ‘Miles and Monk at Newport’. A considerable amount of speculation has been recorded regarding Monk’s mental condition and while never definitively diagnosed, he was prescribed psychotropic medication, some have speculated the prescriptions were improper and actually worsened his condition, which would find him in manic state for days, and then withdrawn and mute for several more.
The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz has hosted an annual International Jazz Competition since 1987.
Monk’s distinctive style is well captured in this short clip….