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The Idiosyncratic Thelonious Monk

Classical Academy | Performers


A curious character, jazz giant Thelonious Monk boasted a unique improvisational style as a leading pianist and composer, the second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington. Although he is numbered among those who founded the 'bebop' genre, Monk moved away from this style in later years. He made use of dissonant harmonies, unusual melodic twists, and dramatic silences. He would even go so far as to use the piano as a kind of percussion instrument, attacking notes abruptly.


Renowned for an equally idiosyncratic dress sense (suits, hats and sunglasses were his trademark), he would often get up from the piano in the middle of a piece and dance to the music played by his band, before sitting promptly back down to strike up his tune once more.


On signing with Riverside records, his first 'big splash' came with the 1956 LP Brilliant Corners, featuring his own music and a complex title track so difficult to perform it was pieced together in multiple takes for the recording.


Dive into the fun and frollicks of Monk's music with our special playlist.