Smithsonian Collections

Thelonious Monk

Image for Thelonious Monk
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition Label
Declaring “jazz is my adventure,” composer and pianist Thelonious Monk opened new avenues of musical expression with highly original works marked by dissonance, unorthodox syncopation, and inventive figurations and runs. As the house band’s pianist at Harlem’s Minton Playhouse in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Monk jammed with other young musicians such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, who were in the forefront of the nascent bebop revolution. His seminal composition “’Round Midnight” was first recorded in 1944 by Cootie Williams’s orchestra, with Bud Powell on piano. Three years later, the Blue Note label issued Monk’s first recordings of his own compositions, including “’Round Midnight” and “Well You Needn’t.” His performing career languished for much of the 1950s after a drug arrest cost him his New York City cabaret license. But in 1957, when Monk reemerged—now fronting a quartet that included saxophonist John Coltrane—he captured the acclaim that had formerly eluded him.
“El jazz es mi aventura”, decía el compositor y pianista Thelonious Monk, quien inauguró nuevas vías de expresión musical con obras de gran originalidad, caracterizadas por disonancias, síncopas heterodoxas y figuras y melismas de gran inventiva. Como pianista de la banda del Minton Playhouse en Harlem a fines de los años treinta y principios de los cuarenta, Monk participó en jams con otros músicos jóvenes como Charlie Parker y Dizzy Gillespie, que eran la vanguardia de la naciente revolución del bebop. Su seminal composición “’Round Midnight” fue grabada por primera vez en 1944 por la orquesta de Cootie Williams con Bud Powell al piano. Tres años después, la disquera Blue Note lanzó la primera grabación de Monk con sus propias composiciones, entre ellas “’Round Midnight” y “Well You Needn’t”. Su carrera como intérprete languideció durante casi toda la década de 1950, luego de un arresto por problemas de drogas que le costó su licencia para trabajar en los cabarets de New York. No obstante, Monk resurgió en 1957 —al frente de un cuarteto que incluía al saxofonista John Coltrane— y logró por fin el aclamo popular que antes lo había eludido.
Artist
Herman Leonard, 1923 - 2010
Sitter
Thelonious Sphere Monk, 10 Oct 1917 - 17 Feb 1982
Date
1949 (printed 1998)
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Medium
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print
Dimensions
Image: 38 × 30.3cm (14 15/16 × 11 15/16")
Sheet: 50.5 × 40.5cm (19 7/8 × 15 15/16")
Frame: 71.8 × 56.5 × 3.8 cm (28 1/4 × 22 1/4 × 1 1/2")
Type
Photograph
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Object number
NPG.2014.111.17
Culture
Thelonious Sphere Monk: American\African American
Topic
Music\Musical instrument\Piano
Costume\Dress Accessory\Eyeglasses
Equipment\Smoking Implements\Cigarette
Equipment\Drafting & Writing Implements\Writing implement\Pen
Thelonious Sphere Monk: Male
Thelonious Sphere Monk: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Composer
Thelonious Sphere Monk: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Pianist
Thelonious Sphere Monk: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Jazz
Portrait
Restrictions & Rights
© Herman Leonard Photography LLC