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Famous Quotes
Thelonious Monk
(1917-82)
American jazz pianist and composer




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"I say, play your own way. Don't play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you're doing -- even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years."
-- Thelonious Monk

"When I was a kid, some of the guys would try to get me to hate white people for what they've been doing to Negroes, and for a while I tried real hard. But every time I got to hating them, some white guy would come along and mess the whole thing up."
-- Thelonious Monk

"Thelonius Monk was not exactly 'the guy next door'."
-- Dexter Gordon

"Sometimes it's to your advantage for people to think you're crazy"
-- Thelonious Monk

"I'm famous. Ain't that a bitch!"
-- Thelonius Monk

"Interviewer: 'What other interests do you have?'
Monk: 'Life in general.'
Interviewer: 'What do you do about it?'
Monk: 'Keep breathing.' "
-- Down Beat magazine, October 28, 1971

"Interviewer: 'What do you think the purpose of life is?'
Monk: 'To die.' "
-- Down Beat magazine, October 28, 1971

"I made the wrong mistakes"
-- Thelonious Monk, after a disappointing improvisation

"At this time the fashion is to bring something to jazz that I reject. They speak of freedom. But one has no right, under pretext of freeing yourself, to be illogical and incoherent by getting rid of structure and simply piling a lot of notes one on top of the other. There’s no beat anymore. You can’t keep time with your foot. I believe that what is happening to jazz with people like Ornette Coleman, for instance, is bad. There’s a new idea that consists in destroying everything and find what’s shocking and unexpected; whereas jazz must first of all tell a story that anyone can understand."
-- Thelonious Monk

"I don't know where it's going. Maybe it's going to hell. You can't make anything go anywhere. It just happens."
-- Thelonious Monk, Wwhen questioned as to the future of jazz, as quoted in Jet magazine (31 March 1960), p. 30

Monk enters the studio and starts playing, the rest of the musicians
join him. After few minutes of play the technician from his room shouts and
stops the band.]
Monk: "Why did we stop?"
Technician: "I thought you were rehearsing."
Monk: "Aren't we always?"
Source: Thelonious Monk Documentary DVD.


"Bop began with Jazz but one afternoon somewhere on a sidewalk maybe 1939, 1940, Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker or Thelonious Monk was walking past a men's clothing store on 42nd Street or South Main in L.A. and from a loudspeaker they suddenly heard a wild impossible mistake in jazz that could only have been heard inside their own imaginary head, and that is a new art. Bop."
-- Jack Kerouac (1959)

"There, my good man, is the guy (Monk) who deserves the most credit for starting be-bop. Though he won't admit it, I think he feels he got a bum break in not getting some of the glory that went to others. Rather than go out and have people think he's just an imitator, Thelonious is thinking up new things. I believe he hopes one day to come out with something as far ahead of bop as bop is ahead of the music that went before it."
-- Teddy Hill, in: Downbeat magazine, September 24, 1947

"Some musicians, notably pianists such as Oscar Peterson, have criticized Monk's technique and touch while acknowledging his value as a composer. On the other hand, pianist Bill Evans has written of him: 'Make no mistake. This man knows exactly what he is doing in a theoretical way - organized, more than likely in a personal terminology, but strongly organized nevertheless. We can be further grateful to him for combining aptitude, insight, drive, compassion, fantasy, and whatever makes the total artist, and we should also be grateful for such direct speech in an age of insurmountable conformist pressures.' "
-- Leonard Feather, Encyclopedia of Jazz, on Thelonious Monk

"Working with Monk brought me close to a musical architect of the highest order. I felt I learned from him in every way--through the senses, theoretically, technically. I would talk to Monk about musical problems, and he would sit at the piano and show me the answers just by playing them. I could watch him play and find out the things I wanted to know. Also, I could see a lot of things that I didn't know about at all."
-- John Coltrane, Downbeat (1960)

"Working with Monk is like falling down a dark elevator shaft"
-- John Coltrane, Downbeat (1960)





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