Matt's Reviews > Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

Thelonious Monk by Robin D.G. Kelley
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Aug 12, 10

Recommended for: Jazz/music fans, black history/civil rights fans
Read from January 02 to August 11, 2010 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Hard to rate -- if I'm going on exhaustive research and attention to detail, I'd give it 5 stars. It reads a little slow and tends to get into a play by play of "how the shows went over" a bit too much, I thought, but generally this was an incredible, interesting read. It's sometimes hard to connect the thoughtful, reasonable man portrayed throughout this book with the character you see spinning around in "Straight, No Chaser," and the interpretive gap still has me a bit off guard -- did Kelley maybe make too many concessions or gloss over Monk's mental lapses a bit too much in the book? I don't know, but he definitely uncovers a pretty rich logistics to a truly strange life.

Musically, I feel like Kelley could have done a bit more to place Monk in contemporary contexts as time went on. Characters like Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane float in and out of the story without much description about what kinds of things they had moved on to and how it compared to what Monk was doing -- in Monk's eyes, in the critics of the day, or even in Kelley's own opinion. We get to see it a bit with the friction between Monk and Ornette Coleman and Davis' later fusion period, but I feel like that could have been explored a bit more (although it pains me to suggest that Kelley should have done any more work on this book that he already has . . . ).
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