TS Monk at Kennedy Center

There's something you will recognize when you meet T S Monk: he's a born leader. More than that, he's a visionary. He feeds the right people the right ideas at the right times, raises money and makes things happen.

He creates opportunities for musicians by building institutions for them -- the annual Thelonious Monk competitions at the Kennedy Center in Washington, and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

TS Monk, from a publicity photo

Not long ago, jazz programs like these were just dreams.

For example, pianist Helen Sung graduated with the first class from the Monk Institute. Each class is just a handful of students - the size of a small ensemble. The students get two years of instruction, tuition free.

The model for this program is the apartment where TS Monk grew up in New York in the 1950s and 60s. TS remembers all the greats stopping by the apartment, to learn from his father, Thelonious Monk, one of the musical architects and most important pianists of the 20th century. Monk compositions are a staple of the repertoire on JazzSet.

But there's something even more fundamental to TS Monk. He's a drummer and he loves to play. Art Blakey gave him his first drumset, and Max Roach his first lessons. Now TS Monk is leading the band at the Kennedy Center Jazz Club, on JazzSet.

When you meet TS Monk, he's a strong man in good shape, and you might think he's a power drummer. There's a lot of detail in his playing, a lot of thought in it. He's looking for a new angle with every piece.

"Appointment in Milano" by Bobby Watson "A Child Is Born" by Thad Jones, featuring pianist Helen Sung "Evidence" by Thelonious Monk "Round Midnight" by Monk and Williams, arr. Max Roach

INCIDENTAL MUSIC "Nutty" from Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
"Little Rootie Tootie" also performed by Thelonious Monk

TS Monk, drummer and leader
Bobby Porcelli, flute and alto
Willie Williams, tenor
Winston Bird, trumpet and flugelhorn
Helen Sung, pianist
James King, bassist


TS Monk Interview, Photos

Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz

Kennedy Center Jazz

Thanks to Dr. Billy Taylor and Kevin Struthers of Kennedy Center Jazz. Our music mixer is Duke Markos, with Chris Weal of Big Mo Recording. My engineer is Ginger Bruner at KUNV in Las Vegas. Producer Becca Pulliam, executive producer Thurston Briscoe @ Jazz 88 WBGO in Newark, NJ.