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Catalogue No.JLTM001
LocationParis
Date18-4-1961
Print QualitySilver gelatin on baryta paper

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Thelonious Monk
by Jean-Pierre Leloir
Thelonious Monk Olympia Paris18-4-1961. Open edition
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Thelonious Sphere Monk(October 10, 1917 – February 17, 1982) was an American jazz pianist and composer considered one of the giants of American music.] Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "Epistrophy", "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser" and "Well, You Needn't".
Monk is the second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed over 1,000 songs while Monk wrote about 70. His compositions and improvisations are full of dissonant harmonies and angular melodic twists, and are consistent with Monk's unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of silences and hesitations. This was not a style universally appreciated; poet and jazz critic Philip Larkin dismissed Monk as 'the elephant on the keyboard'. Monk's manner was idiosyncratic. Visually, he was renowned for his distinctive style in suits, hats and sunglasses. He was also noted for the fact that at times, while the other musicians in the band continued playing, he would stop, stand up from the keyboard and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano. He is one of five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of Time (the other four being Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis, and Dave Brubeck) as of 2010.
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Outside his native France, the veteran photographer Jean-Pierre Leloir was best known for the concert and behind-the-scenes pictures he took of Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding when they visited Paris and appeared at the famed Olympia Theatre in 1966 and 1967. These have featured on countless releases and reissues, been widely published and exhibited and demonstrate Leloir's amazing ability to immortalise performers and to capture candid moments in the dressing rooms and the corridors of the legendary Paris venue.
"I loved the people I photographed, so I made myself as available, yet as discreet as possible," he said. "I never wanted to be a paparazzi. I wanted them to forget my presence so I could catch those little unexpected moments." In France, Leloir was also celebrated for his many photos of jazz musicians and singers, including a rare picture of Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré and Jacques Brel, the holy trinity of chanson, taken in January 1969. For publications like Jazz Magazine, L'Express and Le Nouvel Observateur, he photographed many of the jazz musicians who visited Paris or made the French capital their home in the 1950s and '60s, including Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Sydney Bechet, Art Blakey, Donald Byrd, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus and Lester Young. He also documented the golden age of chanson and the "yéyé" era and shot memorable studio and concert photographs of Edith Piaf, Johnny Hallyday, and Yves Montand, among many others. He seemed to have a special empathy with visiting blues, rock and soul musicians from the US and the UK and photographed the likes of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa (Leloir's striking black and white portrait of the guitarist in 1976 is included in the Best of Zappa compilation Strictly Commercial). He also covered the Isle of Wight festival in 1969 and the Orange rock festival, a landmark event in France, in 1975. The mustachioed Leloir smoked a pipe and had the phlegmatic demeanour of a British gentleman. He knew how to put his subjects at ease in the more formal environment of a studio, playing Vivaldi in the background to help Brel relax, for instance. "His moustache is so fascinating that you end up staring at it and forgetting all about the camera," the Belgian singer said of the photographer, who became a lifelong friend and took most of the pictures that adorned the covers of his records. The many books of Leloir's work include Brel Par Leloir (2008), Johnny Sixties, a collection of his Hallyday photos (2009), Instants De Grâce and Portraits Jazz. He was made Chevalier de L'Ordre Des Arts et des Lettres and used the occasion to lecture the culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand about the rights of photographers in the digital age. "It was a great honour, the cherry on a beautiful cake," he nevertheless said of the ceremony, where he met up with the American jazz double bassist Ron Carter, whom he had photographed several times, and who was also honoured that day. "That's what I call the lottery of life," Leloir mused about a life that had been full of such coincidences.
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