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Thelonious Monk : the life and times of an American original
Kelley, Robin D. G.
Adult Nonfiction ML417.M846 K46 2009

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From Publishers' Weekly:

"Elusive, mysterious, strange, eccentric, weird, genius"-the legend of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk began early in his career, propagated by supporters and detractors in equal measure. Kelley (Race Rebels) breaks down the mythology, taking great pains to establish, for example, that Monk, far from being an untutored savant, was intimately familiar with classical and popular music. Every step of Monk's musical journey is teased out in meticulous detail, from his childhood piano lessons to his groundbreaking half-year run headlining at New York's Five Spot, along with behind-the-scenes stories from the recording sessions for classic albums like Brilliant Corners and Monk's Music. Kelley also explains Monk's most notorious behaviors-stony silences when confronted in public, exuberant dancing during concerts-as the outward signs of a bipolar disorder that went unrecognized for much of his life, with immeasurable impact on his career. (He was often unable to even play in New York jazz clubs because his reputation precluded him from getting a work license from city authorities.) Sometimes, the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming, but whether he's charting the highs or lows of Monk's emotional swings, Kelley rarely strays from his central theme of an extraordinary talent pushing against the boundaries of his art. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

This first purely biographical treatment of the landmark jazz composer and pianist brings in a wealth of new material, much of it specifically intended to put paid to Monk's reputation as an enigmatic recluse. Historian Kelley (Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class) draws on new personal interviews and unprecedented access to private documents and recordings, filling in some gaps left in previous biographies. A wealth of historical context is richly studded with details of Monk's family background and the broader world in which he lived and worked. There is less musicological emphasis here, for which Gabriel Solis's Monk's Music provides a useful companion. There are still gaps, to be sure, but Kelley presents the clearest biographical picture yet of a man who was certainly a genius and may have been eccentric, but who was also both more complex and more a product of his times than those descriptors indicate. Verdict Likely the most thorough possible illumination of the man behind the legend, this is recommended for academics, jazz aficionados, and Monk fans.-Genevieve Williams, Pacific Lutheran Univ. Lib., Tacoma, WA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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