Make sure to tune in to Jazz at 100 every Thursday night from 7-9! Here are the two hours that aired on December 28.
Mentored by Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell became the first great piano innovator of bebop. “It would be hard to overstate Powell’s impact. His ingenious technique and originality as an improviser and composer established the foundation for all pianists to follow. Long after bop had faded, Powell remained a source of inspiration for pianists as varied as the harmonically engrossed Bill Evans and the rhythmically unfettered Cecil Taylor. In other words there is jazz piano Before Powell and After Powell.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux
In 1940, Minton’s Playhouse on West 118th Street hired drummer Kenny Clarke as a bandleader. For the house band, Clarke hired trumpeter Joe Guy, bassist Nick Fenton, and an eccentric pianist named Thelonious Monk. Although Monk recorded with Coleman Hawkins in 1944, he didn’t record with his own group until 1947. Despite these kind of gaps that occur throughout his discography, he is competitive with Duke Ellington for the most recorded composer in jazz. The Blue Note recordings of 1947 – 1952 include many of the most recognized of his compositions.
Pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and drummer Art Blakey were born two years and one day apart: Monk in 1917, Blakey in 1919. The two are among the most influential musicians in jazz history, and — appropriately, somehow — were close colleagues throughout their careers. In fact, Blakey played on Monk’s first three recording sessions as a bandleader.
This video is the best YouTube clip I could find of Monk and Blakey together; it’s from a 1971 all-star world tour. Dizzy Gillespie, prominently, plays trumpet; Sonny Stitt is on alto sax; Kai Winding plays trombone; Al McKibbon is the bassist. The band, billed as Giants of Jazz, is playing “Round Midnight,” probably Monk’s most famous composition.
Soon after this show, Monk would make his final studio recording. Blakey was there, too.
There are many other recordings featuring both Monk and Blakey, but I’d briefly like to point out the first and last. As Robin D.G. Kelley documents in his excellent biography of Monk, there was a touch of a mentor-protege relationship between Monk and Blakey at first: Monk and fellow pianist Bud Powell used to take Blakey to jam sessions around New York. When the opportunity first arose for Monk to document his vision on wax, Blakey was asked to do the gig. Continue reading Thelonious Monk And Art Blakey: 24 Years Of Telepathy