Thelonious Monk (1917–1982)

How to say the name:

Thelonious is said like Theh-low-nee-ous.


10th October 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, USA.

Thelonious Monk’s grave in Hartsdale


17th February 1982 in Englewood, New Jersey, USA.


Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum, Hartsdale, Westchester County, New York, USA.

Some famous pieces:
  • ‘Round Midnight. (See below for a video.)
  • Blue Monk. (See below for a video.)
  • In Walked Bud.
  • Epistrophy.
  • Well You Needn’t.
  • Evidence.
  • Striaght No Chaser.
  • Rhythm-A-Ning.
Some great albums:
  • Genius of Modern Music, Volumes 1 and 2 (1947–1952).
  • Thelonious Monk/Sonny Rollins (1953–1954).
  • Solo 1954.
  • Brilliant Corners (1956).
  • Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (1957).
  • Thelonious in Action (1958).
  • At Town Hall (1959).
  • Monk’s Dream (1963).
  • The London Collection (1971).
  • Plus many more!
Some interesting facts:
  • He was one of the main jazz artists to create ‘Bebop’ jazz. In fact, many people think of him as the founder of ‘Bebop’. However he didn’t play this style for very long. [Bebop is a style of jazz from the early 1940s until the late 1950s. It is often very fast and has very talented playing.]
  • He was a piano player and wrote a lot of his own music (including all the ‘famous pieces’ mentioned above).
  • His playing was quite unusual. It often had few notes and strange chords.
  • He often hit lots of notes on the piano with his elbow or forearm! At other times he would get up from the piano and start dancing round in circles!
  • He had very few lessons in music and mostly taught himself.
  • He played with some of the great jazz artists of his time, including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
  • He was a good friend and teacher of Bud Powell.
  • He didn’t really care what the public thought of his music. He played what he wanted, and that was that!
  • He was known for wearing hats and sunglasses.
  • He was very shy and often said very little.
  • He played very little in the last ten years of his life. He spent most of this time hiding away in the house of the rich woman, Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter. (She looked after Charlie Parker for a short while at the end of his life too!)
Official Website

Here is a video of Thelonious Monk and his quartet (group of four musicians) playing ‘Round Midnight.

Thelonious Monk playing &#8216&#8216Round Midnight’

And here is a video of them playing Blue Monk.

Thelonious Monk playing ‘Blue Monk’

You can see another video of music written by Thelonious Monk on the following page:

Picture credits:
  1. Thelonious Monk at the piano. This photograph was taken at the Expo 67 Montréal (Québec) in 1967. Bassist Larry Gales seen in background. The copyright holder is Library and Archives Canada. They allow anyone to use the image for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
  2. Thelonious Monk’s grave in Hartsdale. This photograph was taken by Virginia Michaels. I have obtained permission from her to use the image here. Click here for the source of this image. By the way, when I asked Virginia (Ginny) for permission to use this image she wrote back saying, “Monk was unmarked for many years. One day I brought visitors from Canada to his grave site, explaining he was unmarked, and almost jumped out of my skin when I saw there was finally a marker!”
Video credits:
  1. THELONIOUS MONK QUARTET – ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT. Thelonious Monk(p) Charlie Rouse(ts) Larry Gales(b) Ben Riley(ds) Norway 1966. DVD “LIVE in ’66”.
  2. THELONIOUS MONK – Blue Monk. Thelonious Monk: Blue Monk (Oslo, April 1966) Um clipe do video “Monk in Oslo”. Thelonious Monk – piano. Charlie Rouse – tenor. Larry Gales – bass. Ben Riley – drums.