Om Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Sphere Monk was an iconoclast of the jazz community, a brilliant composer/pianist whose relentlessly quirky music has been putting smiles on people's faces long after his death. While he played with many groups through the 1940s, it wasn't until '47 that Monk began his solo odyssey. Outside the Bebop mainstream, Monk was busy concocting his own brew of witty, angular melodies with unorthodox and difficult chord progressions, and deeply swinging, Stride-influenced rhythm. In larger combos, Monk was a brilliant, if erratic, accompanist. His approach was wildly diverse, encompassing harmonically dense riffing, startlingly dissonant counterpoint, and complete silence. He was even known to get up and dance around the piano during his bandmates' solos. Monk was also a master at choosing sidemen; on his 1957 recording Monk's Music, he placed the passionate Post Bop explorations of John Coltrane alongside the gruff proto-Swing of Coleman Hawkins. A genius of modern music, indeed.