Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser

By James Calemine

This DVD contains vital footage of jazz great Thelonious Monk. Bruce Wicker and Charlotte Zwerin (Gimme Shelter) make a fine documentary. Jazz lover Clint Eastwood serves as executive producer of this enduring film.

Straight No Chaser tells Monk’s singular story from his early days as a student at Juilliard to playing with heavies like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins. The classic footage includes Monk onstage, in the studio, interviews, backstage and on tour. Monk changed the language of jazz and this 90 minute documentary reveals evidence to his remarkable influence.

The up-close footage of Monk onstage is amazing. Interviews with old managers, friends and musicians give color to legendary facts. Monk’s son sits wearing a vintage Midtown Jazz Club–Atlanta, Georgia t-shirt, while revealing essential facts concerning his father’s life.

Straight No Chaser illustrates Monk’s method of using either the first or second take of a song, forcing musicians to play at the height of their skill and instinct on the spot. “You rehearse every time you play your instrument,” he tells the producer after one too many takes of a song. The music soundtrack to this film endures as a timeless preservation of Thelonious Monk’s talent.

No doubt, Straight No Chaser contends as the finest documentary on any pioneering jazz musician. A twelve star collection on this legendary pianist from North Carolina.

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