39 Facts About Thelonious Monk


Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer.


Thelonious Monk had an idiosyncratic habit during performances: while other musicians continued playing, Monk would stop, stand up, and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano.


Thelonious Monk is one of five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of Time.


Thelonious Monk's poorly written birth certificate misspelled his first name as "Thelious" or "Thelius".


Thelonious Monk's mother taught him to play some hymns, and he would sometimes accompany her singing at church.


Thelonious Monk attended Stuyvesant High School, a public school for gifted students, but did not graduate.


For two years, between about the ages 10 to 12, Thelonious Monk's piano teacher was Austrian-born Simon Wolf, a pianist and violinist who studied under Alfred Megerlin, the concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic.

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Thelonious Monk learned to play pieces by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, and Mozart, but was particularly drawn to pieces by Chopin and Rachmaninoff.


The lessons were discontinued when it became clear that Thelonious Monk's main focus was jazz music.


At 17, Thelonious Monk toured with an evangelist, playing the church organ, and in his late teens he began to find work playing jazz.


Much of Thelonious Monk's style was developed while he performed at Minton's where he participated in after-hours cutting contests, which featured many leading jazz soloists of the time.


Thelonious Monk is believed to be the pianist featured on recordings Jerry Newman made around 1941 at the club.


In March 1943, Thelonious Monk reported for his Army Induction physical, but was labeled by the Army psychiatrist as "psychiatric reject" and not inducted into the Armed Forces during WWII.


In 1944, Thelonious Monk cut his first commercial recordings with the Coleman Hawkins Quartet.


Thelonious Monk Blue Note Sessions were recorded between 1947 and 1952.


Thelonious Monk was showcased at the club for a week, but not a single person came.


Thelonious Monk refused to testify against his friend, so the police confiscated his New York City Cabaret Card.


Thelonious Monk spent most of the early and mid-1950s composing and performing at theaters, outer borough clubs and out-of-town venues.


In 1954, Thelonious Monk participated in a Christmas Eve session, which produced most of the albums Bags' Groove and Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants by Davis.


On Brilliant Corners, recorded in late 1956, Thelonious Monk mainly performed his own music.


Little of this group's music was documented owing to contractual problems: Coltrane was signed to Prestige at the time, but Thelonious Monk refused to return to his former label.


Thelonious Monk did not form another long-term band until June 1958 when he began a second residency at the Five Spot, again with a quartet, this time with Griffin on tenor, Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums.


Columbia's resources allowed Thelonious Monk to receive more promotion than earlier in his career.


Thelonious Monk's Dream became the best-selling LP of his lifetime, and on February 28,1964, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine, being featured in the article "The Loneliest Thelonious Monk".


Thelonious Monk continued to record studio albums, including Criss Cross, in 1963, and Underground, in 1968.

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In 1968, Thelonious Monk, Gales, Rouse, and Riley played a concert at Palo Alto High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, at the invitation of a 16 year old student charged with organizing school dances.


Thelonious Monk had disappeared from the scene by the mid-1970s for health reasons and made only a small number of appearances during the final decade of his life.


Thelonious Monk sent word back after the tour was over that the reason he couldn't communicate or play was that Art Blakey and I were so ugly.


Thelonious Monk proved to be a steadfast presence, as did his own wife Nellie, especially as his life descended into further isolation.


Thelonious Monk did not play the piano during this time, even though one was present in his room, and he spoke to few visitors.


Thelonious Monk died of a stroke on February 17,1982, and was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery at Hartsdale, New York.


Thelonious Monk entered the contest but placed second and thus failed to get the scholarship.


Thelonious Monk's music has profound humanity, disciplined economy, balanced virility, dramatic nobility, and innocently exuberant wit.


Thelonious Monk often attacked the keyboard anew for each note, rather than striving for any semblance of legato.


Thelonious Monk had good finger independence, allowing him to play a melodic line and a trill simultaneously in his right hand.


Thelonious Monk often used parts of whole tone scales, played either ascending or descending, and covering several octaves.


Thelonious Monk had extended improvisations that featured parallel sixths.


Thelonious Monk had a particular proclivity for the key of B flat.


Thelonious Monk was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.