Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin D.G. Kelley (2009, Free Press) was a Christmas gift from one of my sons.
I have read about two-thirds of it thus far (the book is 451 pages plus appendices), so perhaps my review is premature. I will be sure to follow up with a complete review after I've completed the book. I am so fond of it already that I wanted to share my initial impressions.
It is exceptionally well researched. The author, an academic at USC, certainly did his homework well. He interviews those closest to Monk and carefully and fully documents all of his sources.
It is very well written. The author writes with clarity and precision. While he covers a great deal of territory, I am always clear where he is in his narrative and who the key players are.
It is truly fascinating. I thought I knew quite a bit about Monk, but much of what I thought I knew turns out to be recylced anecdotes and misimpressions about the "mad genious." Much of the misinformation about Monk can be attributed to early press releases that emphasized some of Monk's eccentricities rather than his music. It is certainly true that Monk was unconventional in many respects, but tales about his being terribly unreliable and crazy are overblown.
Have others read this yet? If so, what are your impressions?
Again, I will report back with a complete and detailed review after I've completed the book. For now, I am confident in recommending this to any jazz fan.