Thelonious Sphere Monk, 1917 – 1982

October 10, 1917 – Birthdate of Thelonious Monk, American jazz pianist and composer.

Thelonious Sphere Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including “‘Round Midnight”, “Blue Monk”, “Straight, No Chaser” “Ruby, My Dear”, “In Walked Bud”, and “Well, You Needn’t”. Monk is the second-most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed more than 1,000 pieces, whereas Monk wrote about 70.

His compositions and improvisations feature dissonances and angular melodic twists, and are consistent with Monk’s unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations.

He was renowned for his distinctive style in suits, hats, and sunglasses. He was also noted for an idiosyncratic habit observed at times during performances: while the other musicians in the band continued playing, he would stop, stand up from the keyboard, and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano.

Monk is one of five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of Time, after Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, and Duke Ellington, and before Wynton Marsalis.

I’m featuring two stamps of note in today’s post – one of which was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1995 as part of its American Music Series, and the second, a “cinderella” – a stamp printed commercially, but not valid for postal use.  This particular cinderella stamp of Monk was included as part of the marketing design and packaging for one of his 1956 record albums entitled, “The Unique Thelonious Monk.”

Thelonious Monk U.S. stamp              The Unique Thelonious Monk Cinderella Stamp


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