Thelonious Monk (1917 - 1982) was part of that small but select group of jazz musicians who were responsible for the birth of a new kind of jazz - bebop. By the early 1940's he was playing Harlem clubs like Minton's and Monroe's Uptown House with fellow innovators Kenny Clarke, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. In the mid 40's he led groups under his own name, worked with Coleman Hawkins, and was with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra for a while; but he did not work regularly until the mid 50's when he finally became recognised for the contribution he had made to the new jazz and started recording some remarkable albums for Riverside.
During the 60's he led a quartet featuring Charlie Rouse on tenor, a group which recorded and toured extensively. His last recordings were made in Europe in November 1971 while on a 'Giants of Jazz' tour for George Wein.
His compositions and improvisations feature dissonances and angular melodic twists, and are consistent with Monk's unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations. He was renowned for his distinctive style in suits, hats, and sunglasses. He was also noted for an idiosyncratic habit observed at times during performances: while the other musicians in the band continued playing, he would stop, stand up from the keyboard, and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano.
Browse our unique collection of Thelonius Monk photos and prints below