Jazz Great Celebrated

August 1, 2007
Bebop king: Monk makes music for Sonny Rollins, Volume II, 1957

Bebop king: Monk makes music for Sonny Rollins, Volume II, 1957. Francis Wolff/©Mosaic Images/CORBIS

On the occasion of what would have been his ninetieth birthday, jazz musician and North Carolina native Thelonious Monk will be celebrated at Duke this fall with "Following Monk," a six-week series of concerts, lectures, and theater and dance performances.

Scheduled participants include the Kronos Quartet, which will build on its Monk Suites album with the world premiere of a newly commissioned Monk-based work; controversial jazz critic Stanley Crouch, who will dissect Monk's collaboration with arranger Hall Overton; and BATTLEWORKS Modern Dance Company, which will present a new piece choreographed to Monk's music. "Following Monk" is co-sponsored by Duke Performances and the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS).

Monk was born in 1917 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, about an hour's drive from Durham. He and his family moved to New York when he was four years old. His musical talents were apparent from an early age. Reportedly, Monk won so many amateur contests at the Apollo Theater as a teenager that he was eventually barred from entering.

Considered the architect of bebop, Monk collaborated with almost every big name in jazz during his lifetime, including John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Max Roach, and Mary Lou Williams, who was an artist-in-residence at Duke from 1977 until her death in 1981.

Aaron Greenwald, interim director of Duke Performances and director of last year's successful, eclectic "Festival of the Book," says that the series is structured to appeal to a broad range of audiences, not just jazz lovers.

Among other highlights are a performance of the play Misterioso, which is based on transcripts from the CDS Jazz Loft Project; a re-creation of Monk's legendary 1959 Town Hall Orchestra concert by the Charles Tolliver Orchestra with pianist Stanley Cowell; and a re-creation of Monk's 1970 run at Raleigh's Frog & Nightgown, purportedly Monk's only club appearance in his home state.

There will also be fresh interpretations of Monk's influence, such as the double-bill concert featuring the Omar Sosa Quartet and Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache All-Stars. Events take place from September 15 through October 28.