Thelonious Monk

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"Thelonious Sphere Monk" redirects here. Thelonious Monk_sentence_0

For other uses, see Thelonious Sphere Monk (disambiguation). Thelonious Monk_sentence_1

Thelonious Monk_table_infobox_0

Thelonious MonkThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_0_0
Background informationThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_1_0
Birth nameThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_2_0 Thelonious Sphere MonkThelonious Monk_cell_0_2_1
BornThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_3_0 (1917-10-10)October 10, 1917

Rocky Mount, North Carolina, U.S.Thelonious Monk_cell_0_3_1

DiedThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_4_0 February 17, 1982(1982-02-17) (aged 64)

Englewood, New Jersey, U.S.Thelonious Monk_cell_0_4_1

GenresThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_5_0 Thelonious Monk_cell_0_5_1
Occupation(s)Thelonious Monk_header_cell_0_6_0 Musician, composerThelonious Monk_cell_0_6_1
InstrumentsThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_7_0 PianoThelonious Monk_cell_0_7_1
Years activeThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_8_0 1940s–1973Thelonious Monk_cell_0_8_1
LabelsThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_9_0 Blue Note, Prestige, Riverside, ColumbiaThelonious Monk_cell_0_9_1
Associated actsThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_10_0 Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Oscar Pettiford, John Coltrane, Art BlakeyThelonious Monk_cell_0_10_1
WebsiteThelonious Monk_header_cell_0_11_0 Thelonious Monk_cell_0_11_1

Thelonious Sphere Monk (/θəˈloʊniəs/, October 10, 1917 – February 17, 1982) was an American jazz pianist and composer. Thelonious Monk_sentence_2

He had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser", "Ruby, My Dear", "In Walked Bud", and "Well, You Needn't". Thelonious Monk_sentence_3

Monk is the second-most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington. Thelonious Monk_sentence_4

Monk's compositions and improvisations feature dissonances and angular melodic twists and are consistent with his unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of switched key releases, silences, and hesitations. Thelonious Monk_sentence_5

His style was not universally appreciated; the poet and jazz critic Philip Larkin dismissed him as "the elephant on the keyboard". Thelonious Monk_sentence_6

Monk was renowned for a distinct look which included suits, hats, and sunglasses. Thelonious Monk_sentence_7

He was also noted for an idiosyncratic habit during performances: while other musicians continued playing, Monk would stop, stand up, and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano. Thelonious Monk_sentence_8

Monk is one of five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of Time magazine (the others being Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington and Wynton Marsalis). Thelonious Monk_sentence_9

Monk was friends with poet Allen Ginsberg who introduced him to Timothy Leary. Thelonious Monk_sentence_10

Monk was one of several artists Leary wanted to recruit for his studies on the effects of psilocybin in creative individuals. Thelonious Monk_sentence_11

Biography Thelonious Monk_section_0

1917–1933: Early life Thelonious Monk_section_1

Thelonious Sphere Monk was born two years after his sister Marion on October 10, 1917, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and was the son of Thelonious and Barbara Monk. Thelonious Monk_sentence_12

His poorly written birth certificate misspelled his first name as "Thelious" or "Thelius". Thelonious Monk_sentence_13

It also did not list his middle name, taken from his maternal grandfather, Sphere Batts. Thelonious Monk_sentence_14

A brother, Thomas, was born in January 1920. Thelonious Monk_sentence_15

In 1922, the family moved to the Phipps Houses, 243 West 63rd Street, in Manhattan, New York City; the neighborhood was known as San Juan Hill because of the many African-American veterans of the Spanish–American War who lived there (urban renewal displaced the long-time residents of the community, who saw their neighborhood replaced by the Amsterdam Housing Projects and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, though the Phipps Houses remained). Thelonious Monk_sentence_16

Monk started playing the piano at the age of six, taking lessons from a neighbor, Alberta Simmons, whose own performing career was cut short by raising children and who taught him stride playing in the style of Fats Waller, James P. Johnson and Eubie Blake. Thelonious Monk_sentence_17

His mother also taught him to play some hymns, and he would sometimes accompany her singing at church. Thelonious Monk_sentence_18

He attended Stuyvesant High School, a public school for gifted students, but did not graduate. Thelonious Monk_sentence_19

1934–1946: Early playing career Thelonious Monk_section_2

At 17, Monk toured with an evangelist, playing the church organ, and in his late teens he began to find work playing jazz. Thelonious Monk_sentence_20

In the early to mid-1940s, he was the house pianist at Minton's Playhouse, a Manhattan nightclub. Thelonious Monk_sentence_21

Much of Monk's style (in the Harlem stride tradition) was developed during his time at Minton's, when he participated in after-hours cutting contests, which featured many leading jazz soloists of the time. Thelonious Monk_sentence_22

Monk's musical work at Minton's was crucial in the formulation of bebop, which would be furthered by other artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Christian, Kenny Clarke, Charlie Parker, and, later, Miles Davis. Thelonious Monk_sentence_23

Monk is believed to be the pianist featured on recordings Jerry Newman made around 1941 at the club. Thelonious Monk_sentence_24

Monk's style at this time was later described as "hard-swinging," with the addition of runs in the style of Art Tatum. Thelonious Monk_sentence_25

Monk's stated influences included Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, and other early stride pianists. Thelonious Monk_sentence_26

According to the documentary Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser, Monk lived in the same neighborhood in New York City as Johnson and knew him as a teenager. Thelonious Monk_sentence_27

Mary Lou Williams, who mentored Monk and his contemporaries, spoke of Monk's rich inventiveness in this period, and how such invention was vital for musicians, since at the time it was common for fellow musicians to incorporate overheard musical ideas into their own works without giving due credit. Thelonious Monk_sentence_28

"So, the boppers worked out a music that was hard to steal. Thelonious Monk_sentence_29

I'll say this for the 'leeches,' though: they tried. Thelonious Monk_sentence_30

I've seen them in Minton's busily writing on their shirt cuffs or scribbling on the tablecloth. Thelonious Monk_sentence_31

And even our own guys, I'm afraid, did not give Monk the credit he had coming. Thelonious Monk_sentence_32

Why, they even stole his idea of the beret and bop glasses." Thelonious Monk_sentence_33

In 1944 Monk made his first studio recordings with the Coleman Hawkins Quartet. Thelonious Monk_sentence_34

Hawkins was one of the earliest established jazz musicians to promote Monk, and the pianist later returned the favor by inviting Hawkins to join him on a 1957 session with John Coltrane. Thelonious Monk_sentence_35

1947–1952: Lorraine Gordon Thelonious Monk_section_3

In 1947, Ike Quebec introduced Monk to Lorraine Gordon and her first husband, Alfred Lion, the founder of Blue Note Records. Thelonious Monk_sentence_36

From then on, Gordon preached his genius to the jazz world with unrelenting passion. Thelonious Monk_sentence_37

Shortly after meeting Gordon and Lion, Monk made his first recordings as a leader for Blue Note (later anthologized on Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1), which showcased his talents as a composer of original melodies for improvisation. Thelonious Monk_sentence_38

Monk married Nellie Smith the same year, and on December 27, 1949 the couple had a son, T. Thelonious Monk_sentence_39 S. Monk (called Toot), who became a jazz drummer. Thelonious Monk_sentence_40

A daughter, Barbara (affectionately known as Boo-Boo), was born on September 5, 1953 and died of cancer in 1984. Thelonious Monk_sentence_41

In her autobiography, Gordon spoke of the utter lack of interest in Monk's recordings, which translated to poor sales. Thelonious Monk_sentence_42

"I went to Harlem and those record stores didn't want Monk or me. Thelonious Monk_sentence_43

I'll never forget one particular owner, I can still see him and his store on Seventh Avenue and 125th Street. Thelonious Monk_sentence_44

'He can't play lady, what are you doing up here? Thelonious Monk_sentence_45

The guy has two left hands.' Thelonious Monk_sentence_46

'You just wait,' I'd say. Thelonious Monk_sentence_47

'This man's a genius, you don't know anything.'" Thelonious Monk_sentence_48

Due to Monk's reticence, Gordon became his mouthpiece to the public. Thelonious Monk_sentence_49

In February 1948, she wrote to Ralph Ingersoll, the editor of the newspaper PM, and described Monk as "a genius living here in the heart of New York, whom nobody knows". Thelonious Monk_sentence_50

As a result, one of PM's best writers visited Monk to do a feature on him, but Monk wouldn't speak to the reporter unless Gordon was in the room with him. Thelonious Monk_sentence_51

In September of the same year, Lorraine approached Max Gordon, the owner and founder of the Village Vanguard jazz club, and secured Monk his first gig there. Thelonious Monk_sentence_52

Monk was showcased at the club for a week, but not a single person came. Thelonious Monk_sentence_53

In August 1951, New York City police searched a parked car occupied by Monk and his friend Bud Powell. Thelonious Monk_sentence_54

They found narcotics in the car, presumed to have belonged to Powell. Thelonious Monk_sentence_55

Monk refused to testify against his friend, so the police confiscated his New York City Cabaret Card. Thelonious Monk_sentence_56

Without this, Monk was nominally unable to play in any New York venue where liquor was served. Thelonious Monk_sentence_57

Although this severely restricted his ability to perform for several years, a coterie of musicians led by Randy Weston introduced Monk to Black-owned bars and clubs in Brooklyn that flouted the law, enabling the pianist to play little-advertised, one-night engagements throughout the borough with a modicum of regularity. Thelonious Monk_sentence_58

Monk spent most of the early and mid-1950s composing, recording at Blue Note, and performing at theaters, outer borough clubs and out-of-town venues. Thelonious Monk_sentence_59

1952–1954: Prestige Records Thelonious Monk_section_4

After intermittent recording sessions for Blue Note from 1947 to 1952, Monk was under contract to Prestige Records for the following two years. Thelonious Monk_sentence_60

With Prestige, he cut several highly significant, but at the time under-recognized, albums, including collaborations with the saxophonist Sonny Rollins and the drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach. Thelonious Monk_sentence_61

In 1954, Monk participated in a Christmas Eve session, which produced most of the albums Bags' Groove and Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants by Davis. Thelonious Monk_sentence_62

In his autobiography, Miles, Davis claimed that the alleged anger and tension between them did not take place and that the claims of blows being exchanged were "rumors" and a "misunderstanding". Thelonious Monk_sentence_63

In 1954, Monk paid his first visit to Paris. Thelonious Monk_sentence_64

As well as performing at concerts, he recorded a solo piano session for French radio (later issued as an album by Disques Vogue). Thelonious Monk_sentence_65

Backstage, Mary Lou Williams introduced him to Baroness Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter, a member of the Rothschild family and a patroness of several New York City jazz musicians. Thelonious Monk_sentence_66

She was a close friend for the rest of Monk's life: she "served as a surrogate wife right alongside Monk's equally devoted actual wife, Nellie" and "paid Monk's bills, dragged him to an endless array of doctors, put him and his family up in her own home and, when necessary, helped Nellie institutionalize him. Thelonious Monk_sentence_67

In 1958 Monk and the baroness were stopped by the police in Delaware. Thelonious Monk_sentence_68

When a small amount of marijuana was discovered, she took the rap for her friend and even served a few nights in jail." Thelonious Monk_sentence_69

1955–1961: Riverside Records Thelonious Monk_section_5

By the time of his signing to Riverside, Monk was highly regarded by his peers and by some critics, but his records remained poor sellers and his music was still regarded as too "difficult" for more mainstream acceptance. Thelonious Monk_sentence_70

Indeed, with Monk's consent, Riverside had managed to buy out his previous Prestige contract for a mere $108.24. Thelonious Monk_sentence_71

He willingly recorded two albums of jazz standards as a means of increasing his profile: Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington (1955) and The Unique Thelonious Monk (1956). Thelonious Monk_sentence_72

On Brilliant Corners, recorded in late 1956, Monk mainly performed his own music. Thelonious Monk_sentence_73

The complex title track, which featured Rollins, was so difficult to play that the final version had to be edited together from multiple takes. Thelonious Monk_sentence_74

The album, however, was largely regarded as the first success for Monk. Thelonious Monk_sentence_75

After having his cabaret card restored, Monk relaunched his New York career with a landmark six-month residency at the Five Spot Cafe in the East Village neighborhood of New York beginning in June 1957, leading a quartet with John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Wilbur Ware on bass, and Shadow Wilson on drums. Thelonious Monk_sentence_76

Little of this group's music was documented owing to contractual problems: Coltrane was signed to Prestige at the time, but Monk refused to return to his former label. Thelonious Monk_sentence_77

One studio session by the quartet was made for Riverside, three tunes which were not released until 1961 by the subsidiary label Jazzland along with outtakes from a larger group recording with Coltrane and Hawkins, those results appearing in 1957 as the album Monk's Music. Thelonious Monk_sentence_78

An amateur fan recording from the Five Spot (a later September 1958 reunion with Coltrane sitting in for Johnny Griffin) was issued on Blue Note in 1993; and a pristine quality recording of the quartet performing at a Carnegie Hall concert on November 29 was recorded in high fidelity by Voice of America engineers, rediscovered in the collection of the Library of Congress in 2005 and released by Blue Note. Thelonious Monk_sentence_79

"Crepuscule with Nellie," recorded in 1957, "was Monk's only, what's called through-composed composition, meaning that there is no improvising. Thelonious Monk_sentence_80

It is Monk's concerto, if you will, and in some ways it speaks for itself. Thelonious Monk_sentence_81

But he wrote it very, very carefully and very deliberately and really struggled to make it sound the way it sounds. Thelonious Monk_sentence_82

[... Thelonious Monk_sentence_83

I]t was his love song for Nellie," said the author of the "definitive Monk biography," Robin Kelley. Thelonious Monk_sentence_84

The Five Spot residency ended Christmas 1957; Coltrane left to rejoin Davis's group, and the band was effectively disbanded. Thelonious Monk_sentence_85

Monk did not form another long-term band until June 1958 when he began a second residency at the Five Spot, again with a quartet, this time with Griffin (and later Charlie Rouse) on tenor, Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. Thelonious Monk_sentence_86

On October 15, 1958, en route to a week-long engagement for the quartet at the Comedy Club in Baltimore, Maryland, Monk and de Koenigswarter were detained by police in Wilmington, Delaware. Thelonious Monk_sentence_87

When Monk refused to answer the policemen's questions or cooperate with them, they beat him with a blackjack. Thelonious Monk_sentence_88

Although the police were authorized to search the vehicle and found narcotics in suitcases held in the trunk of the Baroness's car, Judge Christie of the Delaware Superior Court ruled that the unlawful detention of the pair, and the beating of Monk, rendered the consent to the search void as given under duress. Thelonious Monk_sentence_89

1962–1970: Columbia Records Thelonious Monk_section_6

After extended negotiations, Monk signed in 1962 with Columbia Records, one of the big four American record labels of the day. Thelonious Monk_sentence_90

Monk's relationship with Riverside had soured over disagreements concerning royalty payments and had concluded with a brace of European live albums; he had not recorded a studio album since 5 by Monk by 5 in June 1959. Thelonious Monk_sentence_91

Working with producer Teo Macero on his debut for Columbia, the sessions in the first week of November had a lineup that had been with him for two years: tenor saxophonist Rouse (who worked with Monk from 1959 to 1970), bassist John Ore, and drummer Frankie Dunlop. Thelonious Monk_sentence_92

Monk's Dream, his first Columbia album, was released in 1963. Thelonious Monk_sentence_93

Columbia's resources allowed Monk to be promoted more heavily than earlier in his career. Thelonious Monk_sentence_94

Monk's Dream became the best-selling LP of his lifetime, and on February 28, 1964, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine, being featured in the article "The Loneliest Monk". Thelonious Monk_sentence_95

The cover article was originally supposed to run in November 1963, but it was postponed due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Thelonious Monk_sentence_96

According to biographer Kelley, the 1964 Time appearance came because "Barry Farrell, who wrote the cover story, wanted to write about a jazz musician and almost by default Monk was chosen, because they thought Ray Charles and Miles Davis were too controversial. Thelonious Monk_sentence_97

... [Monk] wasn't so political. Thelonious Monk_sentence_98

...[O]f course, I challenge that [in the biography]," Kelley wrote. Thelonious Monk_sentence_99

Monk continued to record studio albums, including Criss Cross, also in 1963, and Underground, in 1968. Thelonious Monk_sentence_100

But by the Columbia years his compositional output was limited, and only his final Columbia studio record, Underground, featured a substantial number of new tunes, including his only 4 time piece, "Ugly Beauty". Thelonious Monk_sentence_101

As had been the case with Riverside, his period with Columbia contains many live albums, including Miles and Monk at Newport (1963), Live at the It Club, and Live at the Jazz Workshop, the latter two recorded in 1964, the last not being released until 1982. Thelonious Monk_sentence_102

After the departure of Ore and Dunlop, the remainder of the rhythm section in Monk's quartet during the bulk of his Columbia period was Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums, both of whom joined in 1964. Thelonious Monk_sentence_103

Along with Rouse, they remained with Monk for over four years, his longest-serving band. Thelonious Monk_sentence_104

1971–1982: Later life and death Thelonious Monk_section_7

Monk had disappeared from the scene by the mid-1970s and made only a small number of appearances during the final decade of his life. Thelonious Monk_sentence_105

His last studio recordings as a leader were made in November 1971 for the English Black Lion label, near the end of a worldwide tour with the Giants of Jazz, a group which included Gillespie, Kai Winding, Sonny Stitt, Al McKibbon, and Blakey. Thelonious Monk_sentence_106

Bassist McKibbon, who had known Monk for over twenty years and played on his final tour in 1971, later said: "On that tour, Monk said about two words. Thelonious Monk_sentence_107

I mean literally maybe two words. Thelonious Monk_sentence_108

He didn't say 'Good morning,' 'Goodnight,' 'What time?' Thelonious Monk_sentence_109

Nothing. Thelonious Monk_sentence_110

Why, I don't know. Thelonious Monk_sentence_111

He sent word back after the tour was over that the reason he couldn't communicate or play was that Art Blakey and I were so ugly." Thelonious Monk_sentence_112

A different side of Monk is revealed in Lewis Porter's biography, John Coltrane: His Life and Music; Coltrane states: "Monk is exactly the opposite of Miles [Davis]: he talks about music all the time, and he wants so much for you to understand that if, by chance, you ask him something, he'll spend hours if necessary to explain it to you." Thelonious Monk_sentence_113

Blakey reports that Monk was excellent at both chess and checkers. Thelonious Monk_sentence_114

The documentary film Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988) attributes Monk's quirky behavior to mental illness. Thelonious Monk_sentence_115

In the film, Monk's son says that his father sometimes did not recognize him, and he reports that Monk was hospitalized on several occasions owing to an unspecified mental illness that worsened in the late 1960s. Thelonious Monk_sentence_116

No reports or diagnoses were ever publicized, but Monk would often become excited for two or three days, then pace for days after that, after which he would withdraw and stop speaking. Thelonious Monk_sentence_117

Doctors recommended electroconvulsive therapy as a treatment option for Monk's illness, but his family would not allow it; antipsychotics and lithium were prescribed instead. Thelonious Monk_sentence_118

Other theories abound: Leslie Gourse, author of the book Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk (1997), reported that at least one of Monk's psychiatrists failed to find evidence of manic depression (bipolar disorder) or schizophrenia. Thelonious Monk_sentence_119

Another doctor maintains that Monk was misdiagnosed and prescribed drugs during his hospital stay that may have caused brain damage. Thelonious Monk_sentence_120

As his health declined, Monk's last six years were spent as a guest in the Weehawken, New Jersey, home of his long-standing patron and friend, Pannonica de Koenigswarter, who nursed Monk during his final illness. Thelonious Monk_sentence_121

She proved to be a steadfast presence, as did his own wife Nellie, especially as his life descended into further isolation. Thelonious Monk_sentence_122

Monk did not play the piano during this time, even though one was present in his room, and he spoke to few visitors. Thelonious Monk_sentence_123

He died of a stroke on February 17, 1982, and was buried in Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Thelonious Monk_sentence_124

Technique and playing style Thelonious Monk_section_8

Monk famously said, "The piano ain't got no wrong notes." Thelonious Monk_sentence_125

According to Bebop: The Music and Its Players author Thomas Owens, "Monk's usual piano touch was harsh and percussive, even in ballads. Thelonious Monk_sentence_126

He often attacked the keyboard anew for each note, rather than striving for any semblance of legato. Thelonious Monk_sentence_127

Often seemingly unintentional seconds embellish his melodic lines, giving the effect of someone playing while wearing work gloves. Thelonious Monk_sentence_128

[...] He hit the keys with fingers held flat rather than in a natural curve, and held his free fingers high above the keys. Thelonious Monk_sentence_129

[...] Sometimes he hit a single key with more than one finger, and divided single-line melodies between the two hands." Thelonious Monk_sentence_130

In contrast with this unorthodox approach to playing, he could play runs and arpeggios with great speed and accuracy. Thelonious Monk_sentence_131

He also had good finger independence, allowing him to play a melodic line and a trill simultaneously in his right hand. Thelonious Monk_sentence_132

Monk often used parts of whole tone scales, played either ascending or descending, and covering several octaves. Thelonious Monk_sentence_133

He also had extended improvisations that featured parallel sixths (he also used these in the themes of some of his compositions). Thelonious Monk_sentence_134

His solos also feature space and long notes. Thelonious Monk_sentence_135

Unusually for a bebop-based pianist, as an accompanist and on solo performances he often employed a left-hand stride pattern. Thelonious Monk_sentence_136

A further characteristic of his work as an accompanist was his tendency to stop playing, leaving a soloist with just bass and drums for support. Thelonious Monk_sentence_137

Monk had a particular proclivity for the key of B flat. Thelonious Monk_sentence_138

All of his many blues compositions, including "Blue Monk," "Misterioso," "Blues Five Spot," and "Functional," were composed in B flat; in addition, his signature theme, "Thelonious," largely consists of an insistently repeated B-flat tone. Thelonious Monk_sentence_139

Tributes Thelonious Monk_section_9

Thelonious Monk_unordered_list_0

Tribute albums Thelonious Monk_section_10

The following tribute albums to Monk have been released: Thelonious Monk_sentence_140

Thelonious Monk_unordered_list_1

Discography Thelonious Monk_section_11

Main article: Thelonious Monk discography Thelonious Monk_sentence_141

Further information: List of Thelonious Monk compositions Thelonious Monk_sentence_142

Awards and accolades Thelonious Monk_section_12

In 1993, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Thelonious Monk_sentence_143

In 2006, he was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for "a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz". Thelonious Monk_sentence_144

The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz was established in 1986 by the Monk family and Maria Fisher. Thelonious Monk_sentence_145

Its mission is to offer public school-based jazz education programs for young people around the globe, helping students develop imaginative thinking, creativity, curiosity, a positive self-image, and a respect for their own and others' cultural heritage. Thelonious Monk_sentence_146

In addition to hosting an annual International Jazz Competition since 1987, the institute also helped, through its partnership with UNESCO, designate April 30, 2012, as the first annual International Jazz Day. Thelonious Monk_sentence_147

Monk was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009. Thelonious Monk_sentence_148


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelonious Monk.