This weekend marks jazz legend Thelonious Monk’s 100th birthday.
The pianist and composer made a huge impact on jazz, writing dozens of original pieces. Many of those pieces are now jazz standards.
Here in Detroit, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is celebrating Monk’s life and career, starting Friday with an event from 6-8:30 p.m. It will include a screening of the film Thelonious Monk: American Composer, and a conversation about Monk’s life and career. Monk’s son, drummer and composer T.S. Monk, will be there for the conversation. He’ll be joined by Monk biographer Robin D.G. Kelley, professor of history, UCLA, author of “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original.”
On Saturday, the Wright Museum hosts a tribute concert it’s calling “Monk’s Dream Concert,” featuring Detroit-based jazz bassist Marion Hayden and her ensemble, as well as musician and composer Kamau Kenyatta. Doors for that event open at 6 p.m. Saturday and the concert runs from 7-8:30 p.m.
Robin Kelley and Marion Hayden join Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about the celebration, as well as Monk’s legacy.
“Monk was unique for less-is-more minimalism,” says Kelley. “One of Monk’s big pet peeves is that everyone’s trying to play so fast and play so many notes and they think that this is virtuosity — that virtuosity is defined by how fast you can play. And what his mantra is, is it’s much harder to play slow.”
“I just completely fell in love with his music” at a young age, says Hayden. “There was just something very playful and something very distinctive about it.”
Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.