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Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk
     

Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk

by Leslie Gourse, Richard Carlin (Editor)
 
First English-language biography of a legendary and compelling jazz artist. Thelonious Monk was one of jazz's legendary figures, whose life story has yet to be told. Pianist and bandleader, he led the legendary jam sessions at Harlem's Minton's Playhouse where, along with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, he helped mold the nascent style of bebop. Monk's

Overview

First English-language biography of a legendary and compelling jazz artist. Thelonious Monk was one of jazz's legendary figures, whose life story has yet to be told. Pianist and bandleader, he led the legendary jam sessions at Harlem's Minton's Playhouse where, along with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, he helped mold the nascent style of bebop. Monk's composition 'Round Midnight; Straight, No Chaser; Blue Monk; Misterioso; Rhythm-a-ning; and countless others have become classics in the jazz repertoire. Monk's piano playing was so unique that it has been widely emulated and praised, but never equaled. His personal life was also unique, including a long battle with depression and mental illness that finally led to his total withdrawal from recording and music making years before his tragic death. This book tells Monk's story based on first-hand interviews with the musicians who worked with him, along with the participation of his son, T.S., and other family members. It discusses both his musical and personal lives in frank detail, and illuminates one of the most important jazz player's of our time. Leslie Gourse is a well-known authority and writer on jazz. Her books have been widely praised, including Sassy: The Biography of Sarah Vaughan; Unforgettable: The Life and Mystique of Nat King Cole; and Madame Jazz. She has been awarded an ASCAP award for her journalism. Additionally, she writes regularly on jazz for both specialty journals and popular newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Village Voice, Boston Globe, Jazz Times, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, New York, Cosmopolitan, and many others. She has written liner notes for many jazz labels.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780028650326
Publisher:
Omnibus Press
Publication date:
09/15/1998
Pages:
340
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.84(d)

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