The Complete Blue Note Recordings
This four-disc boxed set is a handy introduction to Monk's music. The collection includes the sessions for his 1947 debut recordings, eventually released as The Genius of Modern Music, and also features encounters with John Coltrane, Horace Silver, and Sonny Rollins as Monk's style evolves out of jazz's bebop era into his 1950s prime.
The Complete Riverside Recordings
Novice listeners may think fifteen CDs of Monk are too much, but this is the mother lode: seven years of studio and live recordings with which the pianist defined his body of work. These tracks, made for producer Orrin Keepnews at Riverside Records, show off Monk's tunes in a variety of settings and emphasize the inspired variations he could constantly wring out of the same material. If this comprehensive set is too imposing, try one of the individual albums it includes, such as Brilliant Corners or Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington, which used Ellington standards to introduce the then little-known Monk to a wider audience.
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane Live At Carnegie Hall
Until a tape of this concert popped up, there wasn't much at all to document the six months tenor-saxophone giant John Coltrane spent playing with Monk. It was 1957 and, arguably, the time of jazz's greatest creative ferment. Monk's rhythmic gamesmanship, his manner of changing tempos and turning his piano lines into elliptical puzzles shines up Coltrane's lighter side.
Thelonious Monk–Straight, No Chaser
This 1988 documentary uses footage shot twenty years earlier by filmmakers Michael and Christian Blackwood, giving rare glimpses of Monk in the studio—scrapping with his record producer at Columbia, Teo Macero—and on the road, including a visit to Australia where he insists on hauling back a suitcase of empty soda bottles … so he can claim the deposits.