Happy Birthday, Thelonious Monk!


There's no one quite like Thelonious Monk. His impact on the instrument of piano, jazz and music as a whole is beyond comprehension. He's one of those rare individuals whose imagination and fearlessness break up the calcification that builds up on music and frees it to wriggle and leap in the most amazing ways. Without Monk we would likely have no Marco Benevento or Brian Haas (JFJO). Without Monk we might still be twiddling our thumbs in bebop land, taking endless solos and restating the themes dutifully at the heads and tails. Born October 10, 1917, he conjured up reverberations that we're still shaking from, and we didn't want this week to pass without pausing to reflect on the man and the many gifts he gave us.

We begin our remembrance with a gorgeous reading of "Don't Blame Me" from 1966 in Denmark.

This rendition of "Light Blue" from Paris three years later features some beautifully controlled playing from Monk's longtime saxophone foil, the great (and under-sung) Charlie Rouse, who also shined during his brief time with the Ellington Orchestra in late '50s.

Few tunes in his arsenal so succinctly sum up the man like "Blue Monk," here in a TV performance from 1958. Count Basie looks on approvingly as the piece unfolds.

The play of lightness and heaviness in Monk's touch on this version of "Round Midnight" speaks to his gifts as a player as well as a composer/thinker.

We conclude with a performance of "Crepuscule with Nellie," which Steven Chabot described in an essay this past May as "one of those works that makes you feel a ripple deep in your soul" (read the short, insightful essay here).


[Published on: 10/13/08]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!

You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!



Conjugal Burning Mon 10/13/2008 09:38AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Conjugal Burning

right on!! Happy birthday Thelonius! I'll be busting out some of his eccentric and amazing pieces out today for sure!

BlowsAgainsttheEmpire starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 10:08AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Happy Belated birthday Monk! Born in Rocky Mount, NC hometown of Gregg Allmans mother, Geraldine and also where author Jack Kerouac made some stops at his aunts during his travels.

rainydaywomen420 starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 10:09AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Monk is the man. Its all in the pinky ring. His early stuff is so good, im gonna throw on the trio before work.

sixstringbrad starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 11:11AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


A true Genius. He changed the way we look at the keys (and music in general) forever.

Happy Birthday!

jacoyle1 Mon 10/13/2008 11:36AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

what a badass, a great influence to music and jazz all around

happy birthday !

Flat5 starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 11:46AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!



gratefullybred starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 01:33PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


well you needn't

another legend, keep on jammin brother.

Jeff Kash Mon 10/13/2008 01:51PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Jeff Kash

A true legend in ever sense of the word

irtimed starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 02:12PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!



geeray starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/13/2008 02:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Monk -- like Michaelangelo, carving out the statue that's already in the rock... a force of nature...

but there's yet another cat, still living, whose birthday is actually today, October 13 -- a cat under whose feet the world turns as he walks...

Pharaoh Sanders man! How 'bout a fatty Pharaoh feature? Take us there, Jambase...!

rjd999 Tue 10/14/2008 07:15PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

man, i love monk. his style on the keys is so distinct. i have a few of his albums, but i really do love the live from carnegie hall joint with trane. their styles are so different, monk's percussive hammering on the keys and trane's fleeting "sheets of sound" approach are so opposite, but somehow they meet in the middle and make music that is just unfathomable. happy belated thelonius, and thanks for everything.

Smittea starstarstarstarstar Wed 10/15/2008 01:02PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I remember this like it was yesterday... Still cracks me up thinking about it:

This is an apocryphal story. During Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, he was doing an interview with supposed intellectual, Tabitha Soren of MTV. Soren asked him if there was anything he dreamt of doing. Clinton replied that he had always wanted to play sax with Thelonious Monk. Soren screwed on her best smart-girl face and replied, "And who was the loneliest monk?"