Five Minutes That Will Make You Love Thelonious Monk

We asked Jon Batiste, Arooj Aftab, Mary Halvorson and others to share their favorites.

Five Minutes That Will Make You Love Thelonious Monk

The New York Times asked musicians, writers, and scholars for over a year to share what music they would play to get a friend into a concert.


We're now focusing on Thelonious monk, an innovative pianist and bandleader who was known for his angular melodies.

Monk, on the other hand, played the same notes with both his hands. This led to complex arrangements that covered the entire scale. He never overplayed, and his use of space in between notes created tension as well as peace.

You know those clashing intervals? The Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley

Once said

Sometimes he will play an F and an F sharp at the exact same time.

Monk was a 1917-born North Carolina native whose family moved to Manhattan at the age of four. Monk began playing piano at age 9 after briefly learning the trumpet. He also played the piano for rent parties and in the church. Monk attended Stuyvesant High School in New York for two years, before dropping out and going on tour with an evangelist. Monk got his big break in 1941, when drummer Kenny Clarke asked him to become the house piano at Minton's Playhouse. Charlie Parker is said to be the originator of bebop.

Max Roach


Mary Lou Williams

Others would jam into the night, creating this new sound.

Monk's solo music career really took off in the 1950s. As a bandleader, signed to Prestige Records he recorded ensemble sets with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Art Blakey. This accelerated his momentum. He broke through in 1955 with the acclaimed album "Brilliant Corners," which is considered the real launch of his career. He performed in clubs all over New York City. He also played with John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan and other musicians. From the late 1950s until the early 1960s, he led big bands. Time magazine ranked Monk as the best jazz musician of 1964

On its magazine cover

The fourth jazz musician to ever appear at the festival.

Monk's erratic behaviour is a fact that cannot be ignored. In 1956, he was hospitalized for mental health issues. He was involved in a car crash and was uncommunicative to the police when they arrived. He was diagnosed with depression years later. Some people thought he was autistic because he would dance on stage after he got up from the keyboard. Some say that he danced to communicate to his band the music he was looking for. Monk deserves to be regarded as the Mount Rushmore for jazz. We asked 11 musicians to share their favourite Thelonious Monk tunes. Check out their selections, then check out the playlist below the article. Don't forget to add your own favorites in the comments.

I can't choose my favorite Monk song. In my 19th year, I was obsessed with all things Thelonious. I spent an entire year absorbing everything I could. Monk is an entire world. "Introspection," from the album "Solo Monk," is borderline atonal, but still has a distinctive melody. The melody has a playful logic, symmetry and harmony that is similar to a nursery song. It also whistles over a bed composed of dissonance. These chords! He shifts between three key centers, which creates an almost trancelike effect. The recording is reminiscent of Eastern mysticism or some obscure sanctified hymn. Every note is given a specific intention in the chord voicings. The chord voicings are not open to harmonic interpretation. If you change any of them, the song will lose its identity. Monk's'super-syncopation' also features heavily in this song, highlighting his charismatic way of aligning harmony and melody.

He called it "Introspection" because he had so much on his mind. Harmony, melody and rhythm are all very concentrated. Master of repetition. It's been the least-played Monk tune over the years. It is important to note that Monk is one of the most popular and influential composers in the modern era. I like the "Solo Monk" version, because he does not improvise on the chord changes. He just repeats the melody twice before walking out of the studio. It's not always necessary to play anything more than the melody.

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Thelonious monk's Carnegie Hall concert in 1957 was, according to my count of 45 recordings that were eventually released, his 45th. The month before, he had turned 40 and was nearing the end of a brief but deeply meaningful collaboration with John Coltrane. Monk's ballads "Ugly beauty," "Ruby, My Dear," "Ask Me Now," Pannonica, Reflections, and â€Round Midnight†might be some of his greatest work, but I chose â€Nutty†from the Carnegie Hall Concert because of its depth of sophistication, coupled with the sheer amazement of his collaboration. This is a masterpiece with its disjunctive rhythms, which perfectly capture Monk's funny dance style. He often performed this while standing up from the keyboard.

To me, virtuosity means that an artist is able to express deeply personal and emotional stories and concepts through their work. "Nutty" is a masterclass in communication. It is amazing how much can happen in five minutes. I am always amazed and grateful for these gentlemen's lives. They chose sophistication and transcendence while the rest of the world chose barbarism.

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When I first heard the song, I felt like my mind was walking away from everything that was happening around me. I was smiling and remembering being at Zinc Bar, West Village talking to someone. Then I was like, "Whoa, what's this beauty that I'm hearing?" The music was playing during a scene of an old movie that I was watching while on a flight. It has become a mainstay in my collection of "deeper cuts" and I listen to it often on the album 'Thelonious Alone in San Francisco. This is one I love. Each note makes me smile and turns my head. It's almost like a conversation. Sometimes it feels like a swing. The whole thing is swaggerous. It's nice to hear his voice in the background. It sums up a nostalgic and sweet story, and is aptly "reflective." The 'A" is the original, and what he does around it is our feelings about the story over the years.

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Thelonious Monk is often like listening to Monk listen to Monk. He spent a lot of time reworking, recording and recontextualizing masterwork compositions such as 'Ruby, My Dear,' and Crepuscule With Nellie,' over multiple albums. Thelonious Monk's sense of avant-garde included not only a break with traditional music, but also a change in his own songs.

Listening to "Ugly Beauty" is a real revelation. Here Monk is, playing his only waltz in his career. Monk's playing is a mixture of technical proficiency and emotional depth. You can hear his flitting and rolling around Charlie Rouse's tenor work, which gives the song a broken and emotional ending in each key. Monk was never a musician who played with technical skill alone. Here, the composition is designed to make him the emotional ballast. You can feel it in your gut when he cedes ground to his band during the middle section of the song. It's not just mood music. He hits dissonant chords that remind you that Monk, even though this is a waltz song, is still there fighting against normalcy. It was one of his final original compositions prior to his semi-formal retirement at the beginning of the 1970s. 'Ugly beauty' is a reminder of how true artists never stop evolving.

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Evidence is a great example of a song that breaks the rules of time and meters. The Thelonious Monk Quartet at Carnegie Hall with John Coltrane is an otherworldly experience. Trane's (timbre) and blazing responses to Monk’s time-traveling through meters. A masterpiece. But I also like the intensity of

This video shows the quartet performing 'Evidence.

Monk's intense playing in Japan pushes Charlie Rouse to have a serious discussion with his solo, instead of the humorous conversation that Monk usually includes. The magic is enhanced by watching the performance, rather than just listening.

Evidence is the best title for this song, which is a testament to Monk's fearless compositions and his magic playing. I like to compare contemporary music with


Monk's placement of samples challenged our notion of rhythm and hesitation. It changed the way drummers played.

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I was watching television in the 1990s. A suit jacket was being unveiled by an inventor. It could record movements. The clever blazer could'remember,' the movements and make the "model" move involuntarily in the same manner. I wondered if gloves could be used to do the same thing. What would it be like to feel how Oscar Peterson or Monk played the piano? "Trinkle, Tinkle" is an invisible memory glove that almost answers my glove-desiring prayer. It is so ergonomically composed, and pianistic in approach. It is a fusion of ballet finesse and jazz-tap stabs.

The 2/4 bar at A's end is my favorite. The "extra" two beats reminds me of Monk when he thought the music was "cooking''. He would jump up and do a dance that was full of grace and purpose. It looked like a soccer ball dribbling dance. This piece, like many Monk tunes is best heard while singing the melody. In solos, simply replace the 2/4 bar by a 4/4. Monk stays close to the original melody.

Joshua Redman's self-titled album version

It's excellent even without piano. My gloves were not ready when I was called in my dreams for the album.

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Let's Cool One was an instant love at first listen. I had only heard "Solo Monk" before this record. My introduction to big band Thelonious came as a shock. While I'll forever appreciate the

The intimacy of the live recordings on 'Misterioso'

There's something about this that I find so captivating

Version 'Monk Blues'

Oliver Nelson's arrangement brings it to new dramatic levels. The song feels bigger and more elegant with the upbeat tempo, which gives brass a chance to shine. Thelonious’s well-known dissonance is also married with traditional harmony. The result is a conversation between the horns, piano and harmonies that is both avant-garde as well as conventional. Monk's playing on this track is superb.

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Monk's original compositions are great, but his jazz standard interpretations are also very exciting. Monk plays with the songs, rearranging harmony and melody until they sound like he wrote them. Monk played 'Sweet and Lovely,' a standard throughout his career. When he recorded the 1964 solo, he'd been playing it for more than 10 years and made some notable tweaks to the original. Monk's use of descending sevenths and refusal to resolve the last chord in the expected place are both classic Monk. The lyrics to 'Sweet and Lovely,' which we do not hear here, speak of an apparent love without complications: "Sweet and Lovely, sweeter than May roses, and he loved me, there's nothing else I can say."

Monk contrasts this with a melancholy vignette. Monk begins by playing the melody in an almost stylized and romantic way, while leaning on the warmth of his left-hand. However, the heavy bass line that follows adds a sombre mood. His articulation gets more prominent throughout his solo, until the melody returns with rolling, insistent octaves. Monk's conclusion doesn't seem to be a neat way to end the song. It leaves the listener feeling a little unsatisfied and may even leave the door open to him returning to the song again.

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Thelonious monk was the first jazz musician I listened to.

The album 'The Composer'

As a teenager, I used to listen to a cassette tape. The improvisations and lyrics were confusing at first, but I still kept listening to the tape. The melodies were what initially drew my attention. There is

A version of Crepuscule With Nellie

On that album. It's instantly recognizable as classic Monk. It's a classic Monk, instantly recognizable.