Jazz Masters Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane

John Coltrane John Coltrane


All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina’s black history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit from our state’s African American’s past. Though they both became New Yorkers during the course of their lives, jazz masters Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane had North Carolina roots that ran deep. Monk was a native of Rocky Mount and Coltrane of Hamlet in Richmond County. Though they followed separate paths to New York, the two artists collaborated there later in their careers.

Thelonious Monk Thelonious Monk


Perhaps best-known for “’Round Midnight,” Theolonius Monk played music in a style that was original and unorthodox, incorporating elements of stride piano and gospel to create a “rhythmic virtuosity,” striking dissonant notes and playing skewed melodies. Personally, Monk had a reputation as the ultimate hipster. Though born in Richmond County, John Coltrane was raised in High Point. He made his professional debut in 1945 and collaborated with Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis in several milestone recordings before forming his own group in 1960. In the years before his death at age 40, Coltrane established avant-garde jazz as mainstream, popular music. One measure of Coltrane’s significance is the fact that he has been the subject of at least four biographies. To discover more about North Carolina's rich tradition of African-American music, check out the African-American Music Trail, organized by the N.C. Arts Council.

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