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Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)

A documentary film about the life of pianist and jazz great Thelonious Monk. Features live performances by Monk and his band, and interviews with friends and family about the offbeat genius.


Charlotte Zwerin

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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Credited cast:
Jimmy Cleveland Jimmy Cleveland ... Himself (trombonist, Thelonious Monk Octet)
Harry Colomby Harry Colomby ... Himself (personal manager)
John Coltrane ... Himself
Ray Copeland Ray Copeland ... Himself (Thelonious Monk Octet: trumpet) (archive footage)
Nica De Koenigswarter Nica De Koenigswarter ... Herself
Tommy Flanagan Tommy Flanagan ... Himself (duo, piano performance)
Larry Gales Larry Gales ... Himself (Thelonius Monk Quartet / Thelonious Monk Octet, bass player)
Johnny Griffin Johnny Griffin ... Himself (Thelonious Monk Octet, tenor sax)
Barry Harris Barry Harris ... Himself (duo, piano performance)
Bob Jones ... Himself (road manager)
Teo Macero Teo Macero ... Himself (Columbia Records producer)
Thelonious Monk Jr. Thelonious Monk Jr. ... Himself
Nellie Monk Nellie Monk ... Herself
Thelonious Monk ... Himself (archive footage)
Frank Paccione Frank Paccione ... Himself-Vocalist (singing voice)


A documentary film about the life of pianist and jazz great Thelonious Monk. Features live performances by Monk and his band, and interviews with friends and family about the offbeat genius.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis








Release Date:

31 October 1990 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Straight, No Chaser See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of three 1988 Clint Eastwood movies. along with Bird (1988) and The Dead Pool (1988) See more »


Thelonious Monk: [scribbles something on a piece of paper] Can you read that?
Nica De Koenigswarter: A beautiful message.
Thelonious Monk: If somebody can decipher that for you, you know, and say what it means, get what it means, it'll upset you. You'll flip, I mean flip for real!
See more »


Referenced in The Usual Suspects (1995) See more »


Ruby, My Dear
Written by Thelonious Monk
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User Reviews

super-cool and super out there, this is unfiltered Monk
29 March 2007 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

Even though I knew enough about Thelonius Monk before watching Straight, No Chaser- mostly from the Ken Burns Jazz documentary- I never would have expected the guy to be like this. He's almost in his own sort of world, but one that can tune into things that most musicians would never ever think of tapping into. His genius was that of a kind of strange maverick who used the piano like one of the surrealist painters, in a style that would be furthered along in the horn section by Coltrane and the avant-garde jazz scene, where the tempo is not one easily distinguishable. As a jazz fan, it's like seeing a figure who intuitively knows the beats, the rhythms, and lays in his own interpretations of where and how these rhythms can be changed and modified for a particular, unique form in the realm of music.

So his appeal, really, doesn't need to be totally squared away; this is one of the pleasures of Charlotte Zwerin's work (previous collaborator with the Maysles brothers, with a similar sight for detail if not the sharpest eye in documentary film), as she can peer into what Monk is about in the recording studio and in concerts, and still remain something of an enigma. He's not as volatile as Miles Davis was, nor as gentleman-like as Duke Ellington, but he has a way with people, as evidence here, on a wavelength all his own, topped off with a really cool hat and a speaking voice that wanders off like his music. If you're already a fan do seek it out post-haste, but also if you've never heard of the guy and pass by the DVD in the music-section, it might turn some over to the craziest madman-genius of the jazz piano. Grade: A

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