Straight, No Chaser: The Life and Genius of Thelonious Monk

Leslie Gourse, Author Schirmer Trade Books $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-02-864656-5
In this detailed biography, Gourse (Sassy: The Biography of Sarah Vaughan) delves into the tragic life of the legendary jazz composer and pianist. Monk (1917-1982) started out in small Harlem clubs and went on to success as a recording and performance artist. But even as audiences began to appreciate his unorthodox style of playing and his genius as a composer, Monk, introspective and uncommunicative except through his music, started to withdraw from the world. Toward the end of his life he retreated to a room in a friend's house, living as a recluse and rarely touching the piano. Unlike the recent study by Thomas Fitterling, Thelonious Monk: His Life and Music, (Forecasts, May 5), which concentrates on Monk's art, Gourse's poignant study focuses on the composer's personality and erratic behavior (probably due to a combination of depression and drugs) and shows how people who believed in him, such as his companion, Nellie Smith, and his manager, Harry Colomby, supported him despite his eccentricities and made it possible for him to develop his revolutionary musical ideas. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.) FYI: Jill Nelson's September title, Straight, No Chaser: How I Became a Grown-Up Black Woman (Putnam), was reviewed July 14.
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-8256-7229-3
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