BMM: Jazz A Part Of North Carolina Music History

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Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk is considered one of the giants in American music. He is the second most recorded jazz composer and regarded as the founder of bebop, style of jazz characterized by fast tempo, instrumental virtuosity and improvisation based on the combination of harmonic structure and melody.

John Coltrane is one of the best American jazz saxophonist and composers. He helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and later was at the forefront of free jazz, a style not defined by traditional jazz techniques.

What do the two have in common besides their love for jazz and notable accomplishments as it relates to the music?

Both are from North Carolina.

Monk was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He and his family moved to Manhattan when he was four. John Coltrane on the other hand was born in Hamlet, North Carolina and spent most of his childhood in High Point. He moved to Philadelphia at age sixteen.

North Carolina’s jazz roots don’t stop with these two. There were others:

spent most of his childhood in High Point, NC, before moving to Philadelphia when he was sixteen.

And he’s from North Carolina. Monk was born on October 10 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and moved to Manhattan when he was four.

  • Bebop pioneer Max Roach was born in Newland, North Carolina, but like Monk, moved with his family to New York City when he was four.
  • Tal Farlow is considered one of the top players during the 1950s. He was born in Greensboro.
  • Hard-bop saxophonists Lou Donaldson and Tina Brooks are also from North Carolina. Donaldson from Badin and Brooks from Fayetteville.
  • Hard-bop trumpeter Woody Shaw was born in Larinburg, pianist Billy Taylor is from Greenville (NC); and bassist Percy Heath from Wilmington.
  • South Carolinian Dizzy Gillespie grew up just over the state line and attended school at the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina.
  • Billy Strayhorn spent some of his summers in Hillsborough, NC with his grandparents.

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