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Fashion Meets Music: Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Sphere Monk, cooler than a fan.

Thelonious Sphere Monk, cooler than a fan.

When you are born with a name like Thelonious Sphere Monk how could you not turn out to be one of the giants of American music? Moreover, how could you not be insanely cool from birth? As the founder of bebop and the second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk ensured that his name would be one for the history books.

The North Carolina born, New York raised jazz pianist and composer began playing the piano at age 6 and was playing jazz by his late teens. By the mid 1940s he was the house pianist at Minton’s Playhouse in Manhattan, where he developed his style and eventually what came to be known as bebop amongst jazz greats like Dizzy Gilespie, Charlie Parker, and later Miles Davis. His richly innovative style during this period, musically and sartorially, went on to define not only bebop but the cliché image of beret sporting jazz musicians with dark glasses and goatees. Though Monk was widely revered by his peers and critics his music was never highly commercially successful.   His best selling album Monk’s Dream wasn’t released until 1963, years after he’d established himself as notable jazz musician. Despite never producing Lady Gaga-esque record sales, Monk was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation and remains one of the most influential American musicians…ever.

The quintessential jazz look that went on to define fashion for a generation of Beatniks.

The quintessential jazz look that went on to define fashion for a generation of Beatniks.

While everyone and their mama knows that Thelonious Monk was one of the greatest musicians in the history of American music, not everyone knows that his style was mah-jah (Victoria Beckham voice). From the crisp suits and fly hats to the goatee, glasses, and penchant to whirl like a Dervish on stage, its clear that T. Monk knew a thing or two about the power of image. Or that he was genuinely himself and could not care less about, either way I love it, as will you.

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[Jazz] Thelonious Monk – Blue Monk
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Thelonious Monk – Epistrophy
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