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Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser (DVD)
Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser highlights the life of one of the most extraordinary individuals in the history of jazz. Using precious film footage shot in the late 1930s of the great pianist and composer, this film provides a special opportunity to savor the work of this one-of-a-kind musical revolutionary.]]>
This exemplary documentary about seminal jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk reaps the benefits of multiple blessings, including the skilled editorial hand of director Charlotte Zwerin and the patronage of executive producer (and erstwhile jazz pianist) Clint Eastwood. Most vital is the use of extensive 1968 footage, shot by Michael and Christian Blackwood, documenting the sometimes moody, sometimes puckish Monk in the studio, on tour, and off stage, which on its own would make this essential jazz viewing.
In post-World War II America, few cultural upheavals matched bebop for sheer exhilaration. Spawned by jazz musicians whose paydays typically came with larger swing ensembles, bop was as much bastard as stepchild, refining the technical ambitions of its parent while breaking free of swing's formalism to play fast and loose with harmony, melody, and tempo. That mercurial spirit made heroes of high-flying, technically flamboyant players like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell. Monk, by contrast, was as distinctive for his silences, crafting often skeletal melodies distinguished by unexpected, skewed harmonies. At one point dubbed the "high priest of bebop," he was more Zen archer, threading notes, warping chord structure, or stabbing "wrong" keys with a seeming looseness that in hindsight sounds as precise as haiku.
Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser provides an intelligent portrait of this often reclusive, sometimes difficult artist, including telling glimpses of his volatility. A stormy studio session with Teo Macero, then Columbia Records' preeminent jazz producer, speaks volumes about Monk's very private approach to his muse. Perceptive interviews and glimpses of Monk's sunnier moments provide added depth, yet the real triumph is the generous catalog of classic Monk songs captured on camera. --Sam Sutherland
"Straight: No Chaser" is a well-crafted and thoughtful documentary about the life and music of Thelonious Sphere Monk, an American original of jazz piano and composition. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Douglas Groothuis
I sent this to my daughter as a gift and they loved it. Really learned a lot about Monk and appreciate his music even more.Published 22 months ago by Cyd Anderson
Clint Eastwood's little known documentary about the life of jazz musician Thelonious Sphere Monk.
Though Monk was a musical genius, it is hard to avoid the feeling that... Read more
This is a great documentary. I first saw it in college and it introduced me to Monk's music, which makes it invaluable to me personally, but I've recently purchased this film from... Read morePublished on February 27, 2013 by Jason Gardner
This is an excellent documentary all the way through! With Monk, we travel through the birth years of Be Bop jazz in the 1940's to about 1971. Read morePublished on April 16, 2012 by C. Johnson
A wonderful glimpse into the man's life and those who rode his sphere of creativity. An interesting and complex individual, the film left me feeling his eccentricities were... Read morePublished on January 28, 2012 by Mike's Corner