In the Light of a Recent Discovery at Doug Ramsey’s “Rifftides”: Brew’s (partly) Invented Tale on THELONIOUS MONK’s Favored Blues BLUE MONK

— Preface —

A wonderful discovery at Doug’s blog inspired me to post my own theory on how Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk was born.

Feel free to read the article HERE.


It all began with young Thelonious Sphere Monk, going to the movies in the early 1940’s. There he watched the subterraneously bad flick Second Chorus (1940), starring among others Paulette Goddard and Fred Astaire (faking  a composing & dancing/ conducting pianist); and it featured also Artie Shaw & His Orchestra as themselves.

In many movies whose stories weren’t very plausible otherwise, the producers forced at least one popular swing orchestra into the plot somehow; mostly though, without caring for the deeper sense of that very feature.

If you listen closely to one of the tunes – featured in that film irritatingly under two (!) different titles -, you can clearly identify the beginning of Blue Monk.

Every Sunday afternoon you could turn on the radio and listen to John Kirby & His Sextet – a.k.a. “The Biggest little Band in the Land” – and their program “Flow Gently, Sweet Rhythm” (with Maxine Sullivan).

Their theme song (the very important radio-signature) became so popular that a great musician like Artie Shaw simply couldn’t ignore it!

So, that very Pastel Blue found its entry into Mr. Shaw’s own repertoire.

And now, have pleasure to listen to the three pieces, which have at least one thing in common:

The first two bars of the melody.

Charlie Shavers’ PASTEL BLUE with Artie Shaw & His Orchestra, March 12, 1939:

Bernie Hanighen’s & Johnny Mercer’s HOE DOWN THE BAYOU (a.k.a. POOR MR. CHISHOLM) with Artie Shaw & His Orchestra, conducted & danced by Fred Astaire in “Second Chorus”, 1940:

BLUE MONK with Thelonious Monk (p) Percy Heath (b) Art Blakey (d), recorded for Prestige at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, September 22, 1954:

Deeply rooted in the Anglo-African-American tradition of the hymns, the spirituals and the swing, influenced by and steeped in all those impressions, Thelonious Monk created a timeless blues theme; a folksong-like melody which always brings great joy to improvise on…

…also to yours truly,



BLUE MONK with Thelonious Monk (p) Charlie Rouse (ts) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (d), Oslo, Norway, April 1966:

This entry was posted in Jazz Stories & Tales, Invented Truths & Actual Happenings. Bookmark the permalink.