Night Lights Classic Jazz

Thelonious Monk: From Myth To Man (Part 2)

In the late 1950s Thelonious Monk’s star finally began to rise. But even as the pianist hit artistic and commercial peaks, other problems began to set in.

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Monk Columbia

Photo: Album cover art.

Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley joins Night Lights again for a look at pianist and composer Thelonious Monk's later years.

In the late 1950s Thelonious Monk’s star finally began to rise, eventually culminating in a recording contract with Columbia Records and a 1964 Time Magazine cover story. But even as the pianist hit artistic and commercial peaks, other problems began to set in.

After his death in 1982, Monk remained shrouded in the mythic, high-priest-of-bebop image that had been crafted for him in the late 1940s, and which had eventually overwhelmed the reality of the creative, funny, sensitive and loving person whose music and way of living was very much his own.

Biographer Robin D.G. Kelley joins us this week for Part 2 of a look at the life and music of Thelonious Monk. We talk about Monk’s relationship with his saxophonists, John Coltrane and Charlie Rouse, his wife Nellie Monk and his friend Pannonica Rothschild, the ‘Jazz Baroness.’ We discuss the connections between the free-jazz and civil-rights movements of the 1960s. Kelley offers insight into Monk’s oft-maligned relationship with Columbia Records and the later years of Monk’s career.

Music highlights include:

  • The title track from Monk’s album Brilliant Corners
  • Live performances with John Coltrane and Charlie Rouse
  • Monk’s tribute to his friend, “Pannonica.”

For More Monk…

• Listen to Thelonious Monk: From Man to Myth (Part 1)

• Watch Thelonious Monk in 1958 performing his composition “Blue Monk”:

And Monk with Charlie Rouse, Butch Warren and Frankie Dunlop in Japan, performing “Epistrophy”:

Music Heard On This Episode

Bemsha Swing
Thelonious Monk — The Columbia Years 1962-68 (Sony, 2001)
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album cover
Bemsha Swing
Thelonious Monk — The Columbia Years 1962-68 (Sony, 2001)
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album cover
Caravan (excerpt)
Thelonious Monk — Plays Duke Ellington (Riverside, 2007)
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album cover
Brilliant Corners (excerpt)
Thelonious Monk — Brilliant Corners (Riverside, 2008)
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album cover
Blues Five Spot (excerpt)
Thelonious Monk — In Action (Riverside, 1990)
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album cover
Crepuscule With Nellie
Thelonious Monk — Criss-Cross (Sony, 2003)
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album cover
Straight No Chaser
Thelonious Monk — Straight No Chaser (Sony, 1996)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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album cover
Bright Mississippi (excerpt)
Thelonious Monk — Monk's Dream (Sony, 2002)
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album cover
Rhythm-a-ning (excerpt)
Thelonious Monk — Criss-Cross (Sony, 2003)
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album cover
Misterioso (excerpt)
Thelonious Monk — Live at the It Club (Sony, 1998)
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album cover
Pannonica
Thelonious Monk — The Columbia Years 1962-68 (Sony, 2001)
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album cover
Boo-Boo's Birthday (excerpt)
Thelonious Monk — Underground (Sony, 2003)
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album cover
Ugly Beauty (excerpt)
Thelonious Monk — Underground (Sony, 2003)

Notes: Used as musical bed.

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album cover
Jackie-ing
Thelonious Monk — London Collection V. 1 (1201 Music, 1999)

Notes: Used as music bed.

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album cover
David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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