Atonal Jazz at Its Best: “Straight No Chaser”

The 1988 black and white film rescued from the “Dead Sea Scrolls of Jazz” featuring live performances and documentary footage produced by Clint Eastwood, directed by important ’60s filmmaker Charlotte Zwerin. We see Thelonious Monk in the studio, on tour, and behind the scenes, featuring many excerpts from his atonal classics and interviews with those who worked with him.

To put it mildly, you have never heard (jazz) music quite like this. Monk’s brilliant composing was ‘way outside’ in terms of (piano) jazz and live playing. You see other musicians backing him up trying to decipher his ‘charts’, even going on tour without a clue of what the sets and numbers will be. You see Monk impromptuly spinning around in circles onstage, in airports, in all sorts of rooms; his midlife schizophrenia literally and figuratively put him in another space, another world, and helps to explain his musical sensibility and totally unique approach to jazz composition and live playing.

This is easily the most unique musical documentary ever made on a one-of-a-kind jazz legend who once graced the cover of TIME magazine. Recommended for anyone seriously interested in music, composing, jazz, jazz legends, and (spontananeous) atonal music.

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