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Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (edition 2009)

by Robin Kelley (Author)

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2241251,855 (3.92)49
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Title:Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original
Authors:Robin Kelley (Author)
Info:Free Press (2009), 608 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:jazz, biography

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Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin Kelley

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
The beginning of this biography is no less than a masterly recounting of Monk's early family history in the American South and his move to NYC. If only I had loved his music as much as I hoped--which I normally would enjoy while reading a musician's bio--but which I don't yet appreciate. So that once his career started, I was at a loss. But the introductory chapters glow with intelligence and a sense of joy. ( )
  Diane-bpcb | May 23, 2013 |
Reads like a doctoral dissertation. Comprehensive, but languid and heavy prose. ( )
  chriszodrow | Apr 17, 2013 |
Extremely thorough and comprehensive, at times painfully so. I love Monk but struggled through details of every member of every band during every month of his adult life. Nonetheless and sometimes in spite of itself, painted a rich and atmospheric picture of life as a jazz musician in NYC and gave me a good sense of who Monk was. I keep toggling between 2 and 3 stars. ( )
  scperryz | Oct 29, 2012 |
Top five biography I've ever read. A comprehensive, meticulous, myth-busting piece of scholarship. Kelley lauds Monk's genius, but doesn't shy away from the difficult Monk. Instead, he truly humanizes the character that has been painted through the years by not only writers and reviewers but by Monk's own record companies and PR people and Monk himself through his schtick. Just fantastic. ( )
1 vote BooksForDinner | Jun 26, 2012 |
Meticulously researched, this was as close up as I imagine I could ever come to Monk through words, and understand what it was like to work with him, to learn from him and to face the frustrations he afforded! Excellent, excellent tribute. ( )
  emmakendon | Apr 17, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Robin D. G. Kelley, in his extraordinary and heroically detailed new biography, “Thelonious Monk,” makes a large point time and time again that Monk was no primitive, as so many have characterized him. At the age of 11, he was taught by Simon Wolf, an Austrian émigré who had studied under the concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic. Wolf told the parent of another student, after not too many sessions with young Thelonious: “I don’t think there will be anything I can teach him. He will go beyond me very soon.” But the direction the boy would go in, after two years of classical lessons, was jazz.

Musicians — particularly jazz musicians of Monk’s period, and most especially Monk, taciturn and gnomic in utterance by nature — tend not, as writers do, to write hundreds of letters sharing with intimates what is going on in their hearts or heads. A biography of Monk, perforce, has to rely on the not always reliable, often conflicting, memories of others. Instinct is involved, surely as much as perspicacity, in sifting through the mass of observation and anecdote. The Monk family appears to have shared private material with Kelley that had hitherto been unavailable. This trust was not misplaced. There will be shapelier and more elegantly written biographies to come — Monk, the man and the music, is an endlessly fascinating subject — but I doubt there will be a biography anytime soon that is as textured, thorough and knowing as Kelley’s. The “genius of modern music” has gotten the passionate, and compassionate, advocate he deserves.
 
If the era of the generally acknowledged classic jazz recording – a genre stretching from Louis Armstrong's West End Blues to John Coltrane's A Love Supreme – was brought to an end first by the passing of the great 20th-century innovators and then by the overwhelming profusion of recordings produced by the musicians of subsequent generations, it would be wrong to assume that no contemporary work is worthy of a place in the pantheon.

When historians come to assess the jazz created in the first decade of the 21st century, for instance, they should not overlook Monk's Casino, a recital of all 70 of the compositions attributed to Thelonious Sphere Monk Jr, interpreted by a quintet under the leadership of the distinguished German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach.
 
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In Memory of Nellie Monk

And all the other folks who inspired and helped me with this book but joined the ancestors before they could see the fruits of our labors, especially...

Marc Crawford

Ted Joans

Sekou Sundiata

Steve Lacy

Prophet Jennings

Kofi Ghanaba

Walter Booker

Lem Martinez-Carroll

Franklin Rosemont

Ira Winslow Hamilton

Alberta Web Saunders

And my grandmother,

Carmen Chambers
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Thelonious Monk had much to celebrate on October 10, 1957.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0684831902, Hardcover)

THELONIOUS MONK is the critically acclaimed, gripping saga of an artist’s struggle to “make it” without compromising his musical vision. It is a story that, like its subject, reflects the tidal ebbs and flows of American history in the twentieth century. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest com­posers. Elegantly written and rich with humor and pathos, Thelonious Monk is the definitive work on modern jazz’s most original composer.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:27 -0400)

His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of "bebop" and establishing Monk as one of America's greatest composers. Yet throughout much of his life, his musical contribution took a backseat to tales of his reputed behavior. Writers tended to obsess over Monk's hats or his proclivity to dance on stage. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. Now, historian Robin D. G. Kelley brings to light a startlingly different Thelonious Monk--witty, intelligent, generous, politically engaged, brutally honest, and a devoted father and husband. This is the saga of an artist's struggle to "make it" without compromising his musical vision; a story that, like its subject, reflects the tidal ebbs and flows of American history in the twentieth century.--From publisher description.… (more)

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