Thelonious Monk’s Advice to Musicians

A friend recently sent me this document claiming it to be written by Thelonious Monk, but it’s actually written by saxophonist Steve Lacy. These are notes he took from his time playing with Monk in 1960, and Steve uses these notes extensively in his introduction to the book Thelonious Monk: His Life and Music. I find it an inexhaustible fountain of wisdom. This was posted around the beginning of the year at I’ve also added a cool youtube video of Monk playing “‘Round Midnight”. Enjoy!monks-advice2

13 Replies to “Thelonious Monk’s Advice to Musicians”

  1. this stuff is alchemal. i’ve got goosebumps. what a find!

    there’s a small jazz club in berkeley i walked past a few months ago, and taped to their window facing the sidewalk was an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet with the monk-attributed quotation (i’m paraphrasing here): “i don’t need to read the newspapers, i just sit on my front porch and vibrate.”

    i’ve been unable to locate/verify that quote; sure sounds like something he would say / do.

    any thoughts about the parenthetical glyph with the arrow and “monk”? i’m intrigued by that one.


  2. Thelonious Monk was amazing in the sense that when he was being subdued, we were amazed by the GRANDEUR of his playing!
    I personally have come to experience his advice (lacking thereof until now)!
    I hope the young Catz coming up read his words as they show off to their friends that they can play some Monk! Sometimes it’s more important to know the musicianship of a musician rather than his/her music! Beyond the Grave, MONK is the MONK!

  3. What a treasure lies inside my computer, most notably Jazz24. I personally like the line, “A genius if the one most like himself”. God bless this radio station and all the listeners!

  4. I just came across this — it’s awesome.

    Diembe asked: “any thoughts about the parenthetical glyph with the arrow and “monk”? i’m intrigued by that one.”

    I just finished Robin D.G. Kelley’s excellent bio of Monk. He describes how Monk had a massive ring made with his name on it, and that he always pointed out that when it faced others it read “KNOW” (Monk upside-down and backwards). Apparently, he loved that.

  5. If you read monk in the opposite direction you get a kind of mirror of the word know
    I think that’s what monk meant by his name and the arrow

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