Straight, No Chaser

Overview

This first full-length biography of the legendary pianist/composer in English tells the story of the tragic life and creative genius of Thelonius Monk. Based on scores of interviews with his family, friends and compatriots, along with voluminous research, this book gives the reader insight into the elusive and often eccentric personality of the composer. It paints a vivid picture of the difficulties faced by a serious jazz performer in the 50’s and 60’s who had to battle to overcome racism to make his mark as a ...
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Overview

This first full-length biography of the legendary pianist/composer in English tells the story of the tragic life and creative genius of Thelonius Monk. Based on scores of interviews with his family, friends and compatriots, along with voluminous research, this book gives the reader insight into the elusive and often eccentric personality of the composer. It paints a vivid picture of the difficulties faced by a serious jazz performer in the 50’s and 60’s who had to battle to overcome racism to make his mark as a musician. Beautifully illustrated with rare photos.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A ramshackle biography of the legendary jazz innovator.

Gourse (Madame Jazz, 1995, etc.) has researched Monk's life thoroughly, interviewing his surviving family members and musical cohorts, as well as combing the archives for contemporary profiles and reviews of his work. Sadly, however, there's insufficient narrative thread here to stitch together Gourse's assemblage of quotes. Monk grew up in New York City; by 1934, when he was 16, he had dropped out of school to devote his full attention to the piano. After touring the country with a gospel group, he returned to New York and began experimenting with his uniquely personal tonal and rhythmic language, often identified as the essential ammunition of the bebop revolution. While Monk profoundly influenced Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, it wasn't until the late '50s that his seminal gigs at Manhattan's Five Spot garnered him full public recognition as a musician and composer. He was equally famous for his eccentricities: Generally late for his performances, he often left the piano and danced around the stage, letting the ever-changing members of his quartet supply the music. In private, Monk was notoriously taciturn, and occasionally he would experience episodes of complete withdrawal that required his hospitalization. Gourse entertains the idle speculations of many nonexpert acquaintances about the causes of his behavior, but the conclusion she seems to support—possible extensive use of unspecified drugs, complicated by genius—is vague. And about Monk's music the author offers silly tautologies like, "In the aggregate, his songs comprised an oeuvre, each a commentary on his unique universe of sound."

The book's obvious title, already used for a Monk documentary, is a perfect tipoff that Gourse has little to say about her subject that is imaginative or useful.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780825672293
  • Publisher: Omnibus Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1998
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 0.75 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

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