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  • Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (Full Screen)
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Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (Full Screen)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Jimmy Cleveland, Harry Colomby, Ray Copeland
  • Directors: Charlotte Zwerin
  • Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • Release Date: Jan. 30 2001
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000053VC9
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #71,022 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Amazon.ca

This exemplary documentary about seminal jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk reaps the benefits of multiple blessings, including the skilled editorial hand of director Charlotte Zwerin and the patronage of executive producer (and erstwhile jazz pianist) Clint Eastwood. Most vital is the use of extensive 1968 footage, shot by Michael and Christian Blackwood, documenting the sometimes moody, sometimes puckish Monk in the studio, on tour, and off stage, which on its own would make this essential jazz viewing.

In post-World War II America, few cultural upheavals matched bebop for sheer exhilaration. Spawned by jazz musicians whose paydays typically came with larger swing ensembles, bop was as much bastard as stepchild, refining the technical ambitions of its parent while breaking free of swing's formalism to play fast and loose with harmony, melody, and tempo. That mercurial spirit made heroes of high-flying, technically flamboyant players like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell. Monk, by contrast, was as distinctive for his silences, crafting often skeletal melodies distinguished by unexpected, skewed harmonies. At one point dubbed the "high priest of bebop," he was more Zen archer, threading notes, warping chord structure, or stabbing "wrong" keys with a seeming looseness that in hindsight sounds as precise as haiku.

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser provides an intelligent portrait of this often reclusive, sometimes difficult artist, including telling glimpses of his volatility. A stormy studio session with Teo Macero, then Columbia Records' preeminent jazz producer, speaks volumes about Monk's very private approach to his muse. Perceptive interviews and glimpses of Monk's sunnier moments provide added depth, yet the real triumph is the generous catalog of classic Monk songs captured on camera. --Sam Sutherland

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Fineberg on Sept. 12 2003
Format: DVD
So exclaims a frustrated Monk during a late 1960s Columbia recording session, after finishing a haunting run-through of "Ugly Beauty" and learning that producer Teo Macero neglected to record it. The movie is filled with wonderful private moments like these, though I can't say how much interest it will hold for those not familiar with Monk. For me, however, and for many others who are infatuated with him and his music, the footage in this documentary is gold. The character of Monk is rounded out for us, and we find that he was just as unique and strange in his life as he was in his music. He was truly in his own world, and though for 90 minutes we see him up close, with his musicians, with his wife Nellie, with the Baroness Nica, see his bizarre behavior backstage, at the airport, in the hotel, we are no closer to getting inside his head. For that, one simply needs to hear the music.
And the music collected in the movie is astonishing--An early television appearance where Monk is miffed by Count Basie staring at him across the piano during a performance...several shows with a quartet including Charlie Rouse...great footage of the big band sessions of the mid 60s, with Rouse, Johnny Griffin, and Phil Woods scrambling to learn the arrangements...and the great Columbia session, where Monk becomes visibly annoyed, but still has time for a wonderfully tender moment with pal Teo. There are interviews with Monk's managers, his son, Charlie Rouse, and a fine piano duet of "Well You Needn't" by Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris, reminding one and all that not only was Monk one of the most distinctive piano players in jazz, but that, along with Ellington and Charles Mingus, he was one of the most brilliant composers as well.
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Format: DVD
"Straight No Chaser" offers an abundance of wonderful footage of Thelonious Monk in concert, in transit, at home, in rehearsal, eating, sleeping, spinning in circles, in the studio, signing autographs and of course creating magic at the keyboard. Watching this film is like watching the weather on any given day. At one moment it's cloudy and grey, the next sunny and blue and in between anything could happen, and does. Monk clearly had serious and long term mental health problems, but the music the man created is his real legacy and there is plenty of it here. Towards the end of the film Milt Jackson, Art Farmer, Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris try to work out the chord progression to one on Monk's songs and as things get more and more complex Milt Jackson (who played with Monk) simply smiles to himself with a combination of perplexity and amusement at the sheer genius of the music.
The excitement and sense of discovery one feels in witnessing this precious footage does become tempered by the lack of insight into the nature of his music and the full impact of it upon other musicians. The interviews are revealing, especially Harry Colomby (Monk's manager) and a visibly emotional TS Monk Jr. who with understandable difficulty recalls his father's mental problems. Ultimately though, the uniqueness of Thelonious Monk's music shines through. His television performance of "Just A Gigolo" about half way through is inspiringly honest, utterly sincere (even in it's sardonic humour) and completely absorbing.
Monk's most lasting musical legacy was probably his honesty as a musician and as a man, the rarest quality of all.
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Format: DVD
This documentary captures Monk as an artist probably better than any jazz musician has ever been captured on film. Although many identify Monk with bebop, I have always identified him with his musical compositions and enjoy listening to him best when it is just he playing the piano with no other accompaniment. His compositions remind me of Abstract Expressionist art and he was, of course, around during that vital time. This documentary lets you see all sides of his work and also glimpses of his personal life. Like most artists and musicians, it is pretty clear that he was not the ideal living companion. Typically, the biggest thing in his life was his music and nothing else even came close to that as a consideration.
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By A Customer on Sept. 24 2001
Format: DVD
well this is certainly a great video. it makes you wish they had taken this sort of footage of many of our other great american jazz legends...i dont really have a ton to add to you all. you all say everything there is to say...this is as essential as a jazz video gets.
i do need to add that john coltrane is NOT in this video as some have said. they were confusing him with rouse. you can tell just by looking that it isnt him, but also---trane passed in 1967 while most of this footage was shot in 1968, the sax sounds nothing like him, and he didnt even play wih monk except for a bit in the late 50's...so it's an impossibility.
anyways...dont debate whether or not to buy this...just get it.
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By Jet Lagged TOP 500 REVIEWER on Oct. 13 2013
Format: DVD
Clint Eastwood's little known documentary about the life of jazz musician Thelonious Sphere Monk.

Though Monk was a musical genius, it is hard to avoid the feeling that his music could have been appreciated more when he was alive (One exception to this was when he performed at the Paris Jazz Festival).

There is a funny and true story that Monk once went out for a walk. He took his time in returning. After a while, a friend goes searching for him. "Are you lost?", says his friend. "No, I'm here", the Zen Monk replied.

This DVD is highly recommended.
 
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