Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser

Film, Documentaries

Time Out says

The image that sticks is Monk rotating slowly like a great black top, impregnable, unknowable, and sadly knowing. Produced for Clint Eastwood's Malpaso company, this is a jazz film in the old sense, which means that it is dignified and museumly. It comprises documentary footage from 1967 of the great pianist in transit, in the studio and playing live, intercut with interviews with relevant dudes; a downbeat, often dull, but unfailingly honest imprint of a singular mystique. Yes, the guy was weird; no, you can't see the stitching; certainly, we shall never see his like again. He wrote ugly-beautiful tunes, and improvised on them in entropic frenzy. In bamboo spectaculars and halibut hat, he addressed the keyboard like a man pats an alligator. Ultimately, this is a portrait of a man who dared, which means, by cosmic law, that the picture sells the subject way short. There is nothing here that really adds to what we know. We might be moved by Monk's childlike dependency on his wife, baffled by his esoteric humour, honoured simply by his presence, but all we really need now are the records.

By: NC


Release details

90 mins

Cast and crew

Charlotte Zwerin
Thelonious Monk
Nelly Monk
Johnny Griffin
Thelonious Monk Jr
You may also like