Thelonious Monk

The Life and Times of an American Original

By Robin Kelley
(Free Press, Paperback, 9781439190463, 624pp.)

Publication Date: November 2, 2010

Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover

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Description

THELONIOUS MONK is the critically acclaimed, gripping saga of an artist’s struggle to “make it” without compromising his musical vision. It is a story that, like its subject, reflects the tidal ebbs and flows of American history in the twentieth century. To his fans, he was the ultimate hipster; to his detractors, he was temperamental, eccentric, taciturn, or childlike. His angular melodies and dissonant harmonies shook the jazz world to its foundations, ushering in the birth of “bebop” and establishing Monk as one of America’s greatest com­posers. Elegantly written and rich with humor and pathos, Thelonious Monk is the definitive work on modern jazz’s most original composer.




About the Author

Robin D.G. Kelley is a professor of history and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. From 2003-2006, he was the William B. Ransford Professor of Cultural and Historical Studies at Columbia Univeristy. From 1994-2003, he was a professor of history and Africana Studies at New York University as well the chairman of NYU's history department from 2002-2003.

One of the youngest tenured professors in a full academic discipline--at the age of 32--Kelley has spent most of his career exploring American and African-American history with a particular emphasis on African-American musical culture, including jazz and hip-hop.




NPR
Tuesday, Dec 29, 2009

Robin D.G. Kelley spent 14 years on a new book, which some are calling the definitive work on a jazz legend. In Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, he portrays the great pianist as a trained musician, a psychiatric case and a father. More at NPR.org

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NPR
Tuesday, Dec 8, 2009

Robin D.G. Kelley's new book, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original, focuses on the career of the eccentric jazz pianist and composer. It reveals new details about Monk's life, music and mental health problems, and provides a glimpse into the New York jazz scene of the mid-twentieth century. More at NPR.org

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Praise For Thelonious Monk

"Monke(TM)s story, from roots in slavery, to the Great Migration north, to the cultural explosions of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, encapsulates a vivid tableau of twentieth-century American life and music. This biography is, at its best, a fitting tribute to one of Americae(TM)s most original and lasting creative geniuses." --The Sacramento Book Review

"...extraordinary and heroically detailed...I doubt there will be a biography anytime soon that is as textured, thorough and knowing as Kelley's. The "genius of modern music" has gotten the passionate, and compassionate, advocate he deserves" - August Kleinzahler, The New York Times Book Review

eoeAn omnibus of myth busting.e e"Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

"...a massive and impressive undertaking...Thoroughly researched, meticulously footnoted, and beautifully crafted, eoeThelonious Monke(TM)e(TM) presents the most complete, most revealing portrait ever assembled of the man known as the high priest of bebop" - Steve Greenlee, The Boston Globe

"Every step of Monk's musical journey is teased out in meticulous detail...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" - Publishers Weekly

"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...Likely the most thorough possible illumination of the man behind the legend" - Library Journal

eoeThelonious Monk was a true originaleThis affectionate biography fills in the fascinating and heart-wrenching backstory of an artist the world has always longed to know better.e e"The Christian Science Monitor

eoeRobin D.G. Kelleye(TM)s exhaustive, necessary, and as of now definitive [book] offers a Baedeker of sortseKelley has created a lush portrait of the private, off-camera Monk, one it would have been difficult to paint without the unprecedented access he had to the Monk family.e e"David Yaffe, The Nation

eoeThis is an authoritative tome that pulls aside, without completely lifting, the shroud of mystery that has long surrounded one of the most enigmatic figures in the history of jazz.e e"Russ Musto, All About Jazz.com

eoeeas complete a picture of this complex, original and enigmatic artist as possiblee this very welcome book is certain to be a go-to reference.e e"Down Beat Magazine

eoeA seminal examination of the man and his music.e Bay State Banner

eoeKelley hopes to balance Monk's brilliance and historic achievements with his quirks and serious problems (bipolar disorder) to take the true measure of the man. Dedicated readers of jazz history and students of Cold War and Civil Rights Era culture won't be disappointed.e e"The New Haven Advocate

"Robin Kelley's new biography Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original is a breath of fresh air among the biographies of our legendary jazz musicians. This book is thorough, detailed, and written with a true affinity for Monk's humaneness and creative musical output. It fills in the missing pieces about the growth of the jazz scene in New York through the forties, fifties, and sixties, detailing each step of Monk's development -- who passed through his bands, what gigs he played, and what happened on those scenes. It's an invaluable and close look at the center of the world's most important creative musical developments in those decades: New York City." -- CHICK COREA

"Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original is one of the most anticipated books in jazz scholarship, and well worth the wait. Robin D. G. Kelley represents one of this generation's most important voices equipped with the knowledge, passion, and respect for both jazz and jazz musicians required to interpret the many details and nuances of Thelonious Monk's life. This compelling book will both challenge old assumptions and inspire new assessments of the life and legacy one of the world's greatest musicians." -- GERI ALLEN, pianist, composer, and Associate Professor of Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation, University of Michigan

"Powerful, enraging, and enduring.... In Robin Kelley's finely grained and surely definitive lifeand-times study, Thelonious Monk, an American original, has found an original biographer." -- DAVID LEVERING LEWIS, biographer of W. E. B. Du Bois and Pulitzer Prize winner

"An honest and eloquent treatment of one of our most important artists, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original is a stunning tour de force! It is the most comprehensive treatment of Monk's life to date. Furthermore, in Monk's story, Kelley has found the perfect medium to shed light on a nation's, and a people's, history and persistent quest for freedom. In so doing he has given us a book that is as bold, brilliant, and beautiful as Monk and his music." -- FARAH JASMINE GRIFFIN, author of If You Can't Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday

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