7 Jazz Pieces by the Legendary Thelonious Monk

The most famous compositions of the founder of bebop.

The Best of Thelonious Monk: 7 Jazz Classics

Thelonious Monk is a legendary American jazz artist whose unique style of music set the stage for the development of bebop. During his lifetime, he was often called a bad pianist and noticed that he was laughing at his listeners, but after a while his works became jazz classics, and the musician himself became a kind of symbol of a whole generation.

creative way

Thelonious Monk developed a passion for music as a child. His mother supported his hobby, and at the age of six, Monk began to learn how to play the mechanical piano. From time to time he took lessons from professional musicians, but he did not receive a specialized education, and in general did not consider it important. By the age of twenty, Monk began to perform in nightclubs - already there his "torn" manner of performance greatly distinguished him from other pianists.

Thelonious Monk's first album was released under the Blue Note label in 1947. His music evoked completely different feelings in the listeners, but left no one indifferent. He played hard, someone even noted that he uses an instrument like a drum. Monk was remembered not only as a talented performer, but also as an outstanding personality. His antics during performances were no less famous than his works - for example, Monk could silently leave the hall in the middle of a performance, only to find himself many hours later in the bathroom of an airport on the other side of the city. There were many rumors about his personality - for a long time the musician even concealed the date of his birth, October 10, 1917.

Photo by Thelonious Monk
Photo by Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk was repeatedly accused of a vicious lifestyle. Some of these accusations were confirmed by court decisions - once a musician was deprived of the right to perform on stage for a long time for possession of drugs. However, a year later, in 1952, Monk signed a contract with Prestige Records, and triumphantly returned to the audience.

During his creative career, Monk created works that have become, without exaggeration, jazz classics. After 1976, the musician left the stage, and for the next six years led the life of a hermit. Thelonious Monk died in February 1982 at the home of Baroness Pannonika de Königswarter, who had been the patron of the musician for many years.

Round Midnight

Music that is considered one of the main jazz standards. The time of its writing is disputed - someone claims that it was written already in 1936, when Monk was only nineteen years old. Other sources refer to later dates - for example, 1941. The lyrics for the first version of the song were composed by Thelonious Monk himself, then it was called "I Need You So".

Even before the official recording of Monk himself in 1947, other artists recorded the melody more than once. "Round Midnight" is still one of the most popular compositions among jazz lovers. Her audition has been compared to a journey into another reality full of poetry. Regardless of the era, musicians find something of their own in it, again and again referring to its sound.

Straight No Chaser

The emotional blues sound of "Straight No Chaser" captivates the listener from the first seconds. The mood of the melody corresponds to the name, which in translation could mean "Undiluted alcohol". This is very rich, deep music, which simultaneously evokes a feeling of freedom and longing for the impossible.

"Straight No Chaser" was released on Monk's self-titled album in 1967.

blue monk

The composition "Blue Monk" was recorded in September 1954 for the album "Thelonious Monk Trio". Later, the melody was included in several more albums of the musician. In 1961, Abby Lincoln, an American singer and actress, created poems for her about finding her true destiny in the world.


Reflections was produced by American jazz historian Ira Hitler. The composition was recorded in 1952, like many of Monk's other successful works, it became part of the Thelonious Monk Trio album. In the 1980s, John Hendrix composed the lyrics for this tune. After the song was written, the song was performed by singer and pianist Carmen McRae, and in 2003, Reflections was approached by Diane Reeves.

Crepuscule with Nellie

The tune, recorded in the spring of 1957, was originally called "Twilight with Nellie" by Monk. However, Pannonica de Koenigswarter suggested another name - "Crepuscule with Nellie", replacing the English word with the French one. The musician liked this idea, and the melody appeared in the album "Monk's Music" under this name. It is interesting that a spelling error crept into the first edition - instead of "Crepuscule" on the plate there was an inscription "Crepescule". Nevertheless, this did not affect the quality of the music, "Crepuscule with Nellie" became one of the jazz canons, and both Monk himself and other musicians returned to its sound more than once.

I mean you

The melody of "I Mean You" is the fruit of Monk's rare collaboration with another musician, Coleman Hawkins. It was he who made the first recording of the composition in 1946. Thelonious' version came out two years later, and Chaka Khan and John Hendrix wrote two versions of the lyrics for it, one of which was performed by the famous singer Carmen McRae.

Monk's Mood

From 1943 to 1944, the composition changed many names - from "Feeling That Way Now" to "Be Merrier Sarah". The result was the laconic "Monk's Mood". The melody was recorded in October 1947 in the collection "Genius of Modern Music".

Thelonious Monk's legacy is truly impressive. For a long time, the musician was forgotten, but the popularity of his compositions is returning again, and performers of different genres find something of their own in his work again and again.

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