Among the most influential musicians, especially amongst pianists, of the twentieth century. Monk had a idiosyncratic improvisational style, both musically and visually, and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire. He is often regarded as one of the founders of bebop, though his playing later evolved away from that style.
Both his prolific compositions and improvisations are full of dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists, consistent with Monk’s unorthodox approach to the piano, combining a highly percussive attack with abrupt, usually very dramatic, usage of silences and hesitations.
He was also renowned for his distinctively sartorial style in suits, hats and his trademark sunglasses. He was also well known for his actions on stage during performances. While the other musicians in the group continued playing, he would sometimes stop, stand up from the piano, dance for a few moments, and then return to the piano and continue playing. Whether this was part of his act or because he was entranced in his art form has never been substantiated in the few interviews with him. One of his regular dances consisted of continuously turning counter-clockwise, which has drawn comparisons to ring-shout and Muslim Sufi whirling.
Monk is also one of only five jazz musicians to date to be featured on the cover of Time magazine (the other four being Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis, and Dave Brubeck).
Father of Thelonious Monk Jr. and Boo Boo Monk.