Thelonious Monk: His Life and Music
This translated and updated edition of Fitterling’s 1987 study makes a welcome addition to the slight body of English-language writing available on Monk. It represents not a full-scale, life-and-works biography but rather an inviting introduction to the world of Monk, aimed both at jazz and general fans.
In the first half Fitterling gives an overview of Monk’s life and discusses salient traits of his composing and playing. He discusses in detail the composition “Criss Cross” and the celebrated “Bags’ Groove” solo of 1954—a few musical examples would have reinforced his points—and takes up such topics as Monk’s sound and his role as an ensemble pianist. The second half is devoted to a chronological and genuinely critical guide of Monk’s recorded output, reproducing photographs of original LP covers and providing information on CD reissues. Useful features included a section on films and video and suggestions for acquiring a basic collection of Monk recordings.
In the warmly personal foreword, saxophonist Steve Lacy recalls “bits of wisdom” he picked up working with Monk, among them a line that perfectly describes the one-and-only Thelonious: “A genius is the one who is most like himself.”