"Thelonious Monk is an extraordinary example of a creative talent who is corrupted by nothing. He has accepted all the challenges that one must accept if one wants to create music in the jazz idiom."
When Thelonious Monk was four his family moved to new York, which was his home until he retired. In the early 1940s he worked as a sideman in jazz groups and became house pianist at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem. Here he encouraged the young jazz pianist Bud Powell and was first recorded in 1941, when Charlie Christian was making a guest appearance. In these and similar performances with visiting musicians, such as Don Byas, Roy Eldridge, and Helen Humes, Monk helped to formulate the emerging bop style.
In 1944 Monk made his first known visit to a recording studio, as a member of the Coleman Hawkins Quartet. Three years later, in 1947, Monk made the first recordings under his own name in a sextet session for Blue Note. These and five other recordings issued by Blue Note between 1947 and 1952 are regarded as the first characteristic works of Monk's output.
In 1952 Monk acquired a contract from Prestige Records. He recorded perhaps his finest solo performance, "Bag's Groove," in a memorable session with Miles Davis. Two months earlier he had recorded an album with Sonny Rollins, and his first solo album, in Paris for Swing Records.
In 1955 Prestige sold his contract to Riverside Records. Monk remained with Riverside until 1961. In this time he also recorded with Gigi Gryce for Signal Records (1955) and made an album with Art Blakey for Atlantic (1957).
Monk's professional career took a dramatic turn for the better in 1957 when he began appearing regularly with John Coltrane, Wilbur Ware, and Shadow Wilson at the Five Spot in New York. During the next few years his group included such noteworthy musicians as Johnny Griffin, Roy Haynes, and Charlie Rouse.
In 1962 Monk's popularity was such that he was put under contract by Columbia Records. Around 1971-72 he worked in the Giants of Jazz together with Dizzy Gillespie, Kai Winding, Sonny Stitt, Al McKibbon, and Art Blakey. He spent his final years in seclusion in Weehawken, New Jersey, at the home of the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, his lifelong friend and patron.
--RAN BLAKE, The New Grove Dictionary Of Jazz
A selected discography of Thelonious Monk albums.
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