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On Monk’s Pianism and Technique Vol.1

And yet we present you another series on jazz history and theory! We welcome you to our first post on the series “On Monk’s Pianism and Technique” where we analyze Monk’s eccentric instrumental technique and its influence on jazz history with the help of Benjamin Givan’s amazing article “Thelonious Monk’s Pianism”.

Thelonious Monk’s pianism was simply unique and epoch-making. Saxophonist Steve Lacy tributes the great pianist on his unique style: “Monk’s music has profound humanity, disciplined economy, balanced virility, dramatic nobility, and innocently exuberant wit.” He was also heavily criticized in his early career, accusing his unconventional, non-conformist style which was self-taught, just like Miles and Coltrane. But what was really different in Monk’s technique? What was unconventional and ineptitude but somewhat higher, intellectual, and simply greater? In our series, Monk’s pianism, we will try to answer these questions by analyzing albums, solos, and his techniques.

Putting it forth, Monk was heavily criticized in his early career. In 1944, in Monk’s first years “I’d rather hear him play a ‘boston’ than any other pianist. His sense of fitness is uncanny,” stated pianist Herbie Nichols. Monk’s bandleader Coleman Hawkins was often criticized to have such a pianist in his group, oftentimes being asked “Why don’t you get a pianist?”, referring to Monk. In his first recording in 1947, many jazz critics, journalists, and listeners agreed that Monk lacked a traditional instrumental technique. Even though some critics like Leonard Feather, praised his composing, Monk still lacked technique, continuity, and harmony for most jazz listeners.

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