The Unique Melodious Thunk

Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk

The listener’s relationship with Thelonious Monk seems to follow a common pattern — years of puzzled indifference, then an epiphany followed by ever-increasing affection and devotion. So it was with me.

A few years ago I bought my first Monk album, but it left me cold so I left it languishing on the shelf. Skip to earlier this year, when BBC Four broadcast a documentary about Monk’s friend and patron, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. The story intrigued me, and for the first time I found myself moved by Monk’s music. I had to hear it again. And again. Mere months later I’m gradually running out of Monk albums to buy. It has become an addiction.

But what can I add to the discussion? I’m late to the party by 50 years. Critics and fans have already waxed lyrical about his unconventional straight-fingered piano playing, his goofy syncopated rhythms, his beautiful melodic ideas and his enigmatic personality. I can but add myself to the list of admirers, and hope that my enthusiasm will inspire others to give themselves the second, third or fourth chance it might take to unlock this musical treasure.

Blue Monk (1958)

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