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Thelonious Monk III On Miles Davis and His Late Father’s Legacy

Late Jazz legend Thelonious Monk is known across the world as a musician, bandleader, composer and vocalist. With his signature “bebop” jazz sound and his diverse repertoire, younger jazz musicians looked up to him as a profound and prolific thinker about jazz music and its historic institution.

So much so, says his son, Thelonious Monk III, that a young Miles Davis would often visit their house in hopes that Monk would teach him new improvisational techniques and approaches to jazz in their frequent jam sessions. In a recent on-camera interview with the WSJ, the younger Monk recalled answering the door to an eager Davis, and what it was like to see his father help groom Davis, who also became legendary.

“Most people think that Miles and Thelonious were peers. They were not peers. Not at all. There were almost 10 years between them,” Monk III he said.

“It varied as to what would happen once Miles came in. But Miles was like a mouse around Thelonious. Sometimes he would sit down on the piano and Thelonious right up and they would get right into it,” he recalled. “But other times, Miles would come in and sit on that piano, and my father would be in the room, 10 feet away, with his hand over his head, laying on the bed.”

“And he might lay like that for an hour and a half. And you know what Miles did? He sat there on that piano, with his horn next to him, and waited. He waited for Monk to get up to show him the stuff. Because Thelonious was like the root-source preacher man for that whole generation.”

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