Monday, June 02, 2008

Straight Monk

After having it strongly recommended by a friend (thanks, BB), I just watched Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser. The documentary, executive-produced by Clint Eastwood and released in 1988, is notable mostly for its treasure trove of vintage footage. (The majority of the movie is composed of uninterrupted performances by Monk and other musicians.) There are occasional talking-head moments, during which Thelonious Monk, Jr., and others talk about Monk's mental health, or lack thereof. And there are brief portraits of the two women who saw Monk through life: his wife, Nellie, who tirelessly devoted herself to the details (there's a great scene in which she organizes some money on her lap while Monk absent-mindedly eats an apple); and later, his patron, Nica de Koenigswarter, a member of the Rothschild dynasty about whom I'd love to learn more.

But mostly, it's worth it for the archival music and visuals, like Monk walking along 64th St. in New York, being greeted by fans. (The whole thing is up on You Tube; here's the first part.) Oh, and I can't forget to single out a montage they show of Monk's work, including what has to be my pick for best album cover of all-time. Beat this:


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