From Publishers Weekly
Elusive, mysterious, strange, eccentric, weird, genius—the legend of jazz pianist Thelonious Monk began early in his career, propagated by supporters and detractors in equal measure. Kelley (Race Rebels
) breaks down the mythology, taking great pains to establish, for example, that Monk, far from being an untutored savant, was intimately familiar with classical and popular music. Every step of Monk's musical journey is teased out in meticulous detail, from his childhood piano lessons to his groundbreaking half-year run headlining at New York's Five Spot, along with behind-the-scenes stories from the recording sessions for classic albums like Brilliant Corners
and Monk's Music
. Kelley also explains Monk's most notorious behaviors—stony silences when confronted in public, exuberant dancing during concerts—as the outward signs of a bipolar disorder that went unrecognized for much of his life, with immeasurable impact on his career. (He was often unable to even play in New York jazz clubs because his reputation precluded him from getting a work license from city authorities.) Sometimes, the sheer amount of information can be overwhelming, but 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. (Oct.)
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Thoroughly researched, meticulously footnoted, and beautifully crafted, "Thelonious Monk'' presents the most complete, most revealing portrait ever assembled of the man known as the high priest of bebop.
--Steve Greenlee, Boston GlobeI doubt there will be a biography anytime soon that is as textured, thorough and knowing. . . The "genius of modern music" has gotten the passionate, and compassionate, advocate he deserves.
--August Kleinzahler, New York Times Book ReviewIf every icon deserves at least one definitive bio, it's official: Monk now has his.
--K. Leander Williams, Time Out MagazineThis exhaustively researched work will undoubtedly now remain the definitive work on Monk, a rebel with a cause.
--Steve Heilig, San Francisco ChronicleThis affectionate biography fills in the fascinating and heart-wrenching backstory of an artist the world has always longed to know better.
--John Kehe, Christian Science Monitor