Celebrate Monk’s Birthday with “Straight, No Chaser.”
One of jazz's greatest — and most eccentric — artists celebrates a birthday today. According to Wikipedia's biography, Thelonius Sphere Monk, born this date in 1917, was an American jazz pianist and composer. Monk 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". Monk is the second most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed more than 1,000 pieces, whereas Monk wrote about 70.
His compositions and improvisations feature dissonances and angular melodic twists, and are consistent with Monk's unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations.
He was renowned for his distinctive style in suits, hats, and sunglasses. He was also noted for an idiosyncratic habit observed at times during performances: while the other musicians in the band continued playing, he would stop, stand up from the keyboard, and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano.
Monk is one of five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of Time, after Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and Duke Ellington and before Wynton Marsalis.
The New Horizons Swing Band serves up a swinging version of one of Monk's most known and populart compositions, Straight No Chaser. Here's Monk and his combo playing it live: Straight, No Chaser.