Thelonious Monk Photography

Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk is recognized as one of the most influential figures in jazz history and his innovations proved fundamental to the development of bebop. Monk was well known for his unique and unorthodox style, both in his improvisational performances and his distinctive appearance—favoring eccentric hats and sunglasses at night.

“The High Priest of Bop” learned piano as a child in New York, and his professional career began as a touring accompanist to a faith-healing evangelist in the 1930s. After returning to New York in the ’40s, he became the house pianist for a Harlem hot spot where he would associate with fellow bebop pioneers Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Monk was not well received initially, but by the early ’60s his true genius was recognized. His legacy includes many compositions that have become standards, most notably “‘Round Midnight,” “Straight, No Chaser” and “Epistrophy.” Monk was posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “enduring impact on the evolution of jazz,” and featured on a U.S. postage stamp.

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