Thelonious Monk, Legendary Jazz Pianist, Revealed in 1968 Cinéma Vérité Film

Thelo­nious Monk’s per­son­al­i­ty was as quirky and orig­i­nal as his piano play­ing. An elu­sive, insu­lar fig­ure, Monk was nev­er­the­less per­suad­ed in late 1967 to allow a cam­era crew to fol­low him around over an extend­ed peri­od of time for a West Ger­man tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­tary. The film, Monk (shown above in its entire­ty), is a fas­ci­nat­ing up-close look at one of the giants of Jazz.

The 55-minute movie was shot by the Amer­i­can film­mak­ers Michael and Chris­t­ian Black­wood for the net­works NDR (North Ger­man Broad­cast­ing) and WDR (West Ger­man Broad­cast­ing). The Black­wood broth­ers had unprece­dent­ed access to Monk over a six-month peri­od in late 1967 and ear­ly 1968, as he and his quar­tet per­formed and record­ed in New York, Atlanta and Europe. The quar­tet includes Char­lie Rouse on tenor sax­o­phone, Lar­ry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums. Although there are a few brief pas­sages of untrans­lat­ed Ger­man nar­ra­tion, the film is basi­cal­ly a ciné­ma vérité piece on Monk (who speaks Eng­lish) and his remark­able music.

The Black­wood broth­ers’ footage, which Stephen Hold­en of The New York Times called “some of the most valu­able jazz sequences ever shot,” lat­er became the nucle­us of a longer 1988 doc­u­men­tary pro­duced by Clint East­wood. You can watch that film and learn more about it in our 2011 post, “Thelo­nious Monk: Straight No Chas­er.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Thelo­nious Monk in His Prime: Copen­hagen, 1966

Advice From the Mas­ter: Thelo­nious Monk Scrib­bles a List of Tips for Play­ing a Gig

10 Great Per­for­mances From 10 Leg­endary Jazz Artists: Djan­go, Miles, Monk, Coltrane & More

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  • John Kemp says:

    All the hun­dreds of times he must by 1968 have per­formed Round Mid­night- sure­ly one of the most har­mon­i­cal­ly inflex­i­ble and dis­tinc­tive com­po­si­tions in the reper­toire- and it still sounds as fresh, spon­ta­neous and pas­sion­ate as ever. Amaz­ing man.

  • Jens says:

    Hel­lo World! It´s true: why I am liv­ing in ger­many I cant see this video nei­ther hear the music! (SonyMEGEMA­Google-dis­cus­sion)

  • Michael says:

    Arg this link is dead now due to copy­right claim. I’m sad now!

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