Written by Luke Alex Davis 8:23 pm Jazz

Sampleface Five: 100 Years of Thelonious Monk

thelonious monk

To celebrate Thelonious Monk’s 100th birthday, we take a look at five samples from the iconic jazz pianist.

He was a trailblazer with his improv style, wide-ranging melodic shifts, and trademark fashions. Thelonious Monk was born on this day in 1917. We have been blessed to have had him in our presence, physically and musically. In commemoration of this, we have compiled a list of 5 samples from the great man.

1. Wu-Tang Clan’s Shame On A Nigga sampling Thelonious Monk’s Black and Tan Fantasy [WhoSampled link]

We kick things off with a dope cut off 36 Chambers. RZA only sampled two piano riffs from Black and Tan Fantasy but he put them to great effect with infectious lyrics from ODB for the second sample. In its own right, Black and Tan Fantasy is a breezy composition originally played by Duke Ellington and Bubber Miley.

2. Quasimoto’s Microphone Mathematics sampling Thelonious Monk’s Pannonica (San Francisco Version) [WhoSampled link]

From one genre icon to another, Quasimoto’s debut album created a generation of its own when it dropped in 2000. For the intro of Microphone Mathematics, Madlib chose a few seconds of Monk’s Pannonica from his 1959 album, Thelonious Alone in San Francisco. The idea of using a jazz sample intro became a common theme in Madlib productions as he repeated the concept for the opening track of The Unseen and Madvillain’s Raid.

3. Buckshot LeFonque’s Music Evolution (DJ Premier Mix) sampling Thelonious Monk’s Locomotive [WhoSampled link]

Premo is a beast when it comes to sewing samples together. For the main melody on Buckshot LeFonque’s Music Evolution remix, he chose the opening riff of Monk’s Locomotive (produced by renowned producer, Teo Macero). The result allowed the stonking beat to permeate through a minimal melody.

4. J Dilla’s Jack Handy sampling Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins’s Lover Man [WhoSampled link]

This one isn’t a direct Monk sample but the pianist does feature in the original composition. He played piano alongside Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins on their song, Lover Man, and J Dilla sampled it for his “The 1996 What Up Doe Sessions” bootleg. If you thought the melody was minimal on DJ Premier’s remix, wait until you hear this. Dilla uses the high pass filter to great effect as he throws those classic ’96 Tribe rhythms over the sample, allowing the unique whistling to take centre stage.

5. Amy Winehouse’s Round Midnight covered Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round About Midnight [WhoSampled link]

This is more of a cover than a sample but 1) this is Amy Winehouse and 2) this is Monk’s most famous composition. Amy added a syrupy bossanova flavour to her rendition, moving away from the standard jazz standard. She followed in the footsteps of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Cassandra Wilson in covering Round About Midnight and performed it beautifully. It’s worth mentioning the original is the most recorded jazz standard composed by a jazz musician.