Thelonious Monk

Greg Allen

Thelonious Monk changed the way musicians approach jazz. It's not a legacy to be viewed in a museum, but a living body of work for artists to challenge themselves today, finding new arrangements and expressions, surprising themselves at every Monk call and response.

Steve Mundinger / Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

Thelonious Monk, the incomparably influential jazz composer and pianist, would have turned 100 today, and across the country, a healthy range of commemorative tributes is already underway. But the flagship event that bears his name has quietly been put on hold: the next Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, which at one point had been scheduled for this week at the Kennedy Center in Washington, will not happen in 2017.

William P. Gottlieb / Library of Congress via flickr.com

Take Five celebrates Monk at 100 with new tracks by Johnny O'Neal, Wadada Leo Smith, Barry Altschul and The 3Dom Factor, John McNeil & Mike Fahie, and Sam Newsome with Jean-Michel Pilc.

It was a Thelonious Monk composition — the elegant and wistful ballad "'Round Midnight" — that first made Joey Alexander a topic of conversation.

Nobody understands bebop piano better than Barry Harris, who at 87 is one of the great elder statesmen of our music. He graced us with his wit, erudition and piano mastery in a recent visit to Morning Jazz.


Lawrence Sumulong / Jazz at Lincoln Center

Like any pianist and composer in the jazz idiom, John Beasley owes a substantial debt to Thelonious Monk. Unlike most, he chooses to express that influence in large-canvas terms.

Several years ago he formed the MONK’estra, a Los Angeles-based big band, in order to play Monk’s music with contemporary flair.

Courtesy of Arnaud Boubet / Private collection

Thelonious Monk’s soundtrack to Les liaisons dangereuses, the provocative French film directed by Roger Vadim, will be released as a double album this spring. Arriving in a year of centennial tribute to Monk, the genius pianist and jazz modernist, it registers as a fresh discovery: while this music was recorded in 1959, it has never been available outside the context of the film, which is out of print.