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Eye on Sound: Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1989) (soundwave)

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser

Charlotte Zwerin / US, 1989 / 90 min.

It’s an understatement to say Thelonious Monks had an idiosyncratic way of playing piano. The bebop pioneer bashed the keys like someone possessed, knotted melodies and angular, jumpy notes into a pure whole resulting in what are now standards such as ‘Straight No Chaser’. A portrait of a jazz legend, on Sept 18 with an introduction by pianist Oscar Jan Hoogland.

poster Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (Charlotte Zwerin, US 1989)

Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie were the founders of a new jazz style: bebop. They rose to prominence in the early 1940s, initially underground, among African American jazz fans and a few Caucasian jazz cats such as author Jack Kerouac who was studying at Columbia University at the time.

Monk transferred the super fast, jumpy, angular riffs of bebop (‘ugly-beautiful tunes’) to the piano. His style has been described as that of ‘a man smacking an alligator’s back’, a good characterisation of Monk’s idiosyncratic playing and character.


Director Charlotte Zwerin (known for the renowned Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter (1970) among other things) created this empathetic portrait of Monk as a jazz legend, genius innovator and tormented man on the edge of madness, and sometimes over it.

Zwerin utilised archival black & white footage from the 1960s intercut with interviews with other jazz musicians including John Coltrane, Theo Macero, Monk’s tenor sax player Charlie Rouse as well as his wife and son. Jazz aficionado Clint Eastwood was executive producer.

On September 18, pianist and 'enfant terrible of the new Dutch impro scene' Oscar Jan Hoogland will give an introduction.


Persons under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult


Charlotte Zwerin

Production year




Original title

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser


90 min.





Part of

All That Jazz

All That Jazz: a scintillating programme on jazz and film featuring classics, live performances and a focus on exceptional avant-garde and activist filmmakers with a passion for jazz. From Miles Davis to Vincent de Boer, from Sun Ra to Ornette Coleman.

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still Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (Charlotte Zwerin, US 1989)
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