The Paris Review

Thelonious Monk and Me

In honor of the centennial of Thelonious Monk’s birth, the jazz pianist and composer Fred Hersch shares a few thoughts on one of his heroes. 

Thelonious Monk has been quoted as saying, “A genius is one who is most like himself.” By that standard, Monk was an undisputed genius. He was among the inner circle of jazz musicians who pioneered bebop, along with the alto-sax master Charlie Parker, the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, the pianist Bud Powell, and others. They played together at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem in the early 1940s, and Monk emerged from that scene to create some of the

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