Matthew Seig’s Thelonious Monk: American Composer is a very interesting hour-long look at the life of the great pianist. Skillfully blending a selection of live clips, still photos and modern day interviews with people who knew and played with Monk, Seig successfully lets the music and the memories talk for themselves. Moving from charming recollections of how Monk’s band was banned from Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem after winning the competition for four nights in a row to memories of seven hour sets with a young John Coltrane at the Five Spot in downtown New York, this film is chock full of sparkling tales of the man and the legend. Naturally, there are some terrific musical clips that help illustrate Monk’s story. Of course, there are no full songs, but there’s certainly enough wonderful music to encourage the viewer to explore the talent of Monk more deeply, providing fantastic stuff for fans and neophytes alike.
This originally aired as part of the PBS Masters of American Music series.