Thelonious Monk estate condemns ‘unauthorized’ biopic; Yasiin Bey steps back

On Wednesday, it was announced that Yasiin Bey, the musician formerly known as Mos Def, would play legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk in an upcoming biopic.

However, T.S. Monk — Thelonious Monk’s son and the chairman of the company that runs the Thelonious Monk estate — told Pitchfork less than 24 hours later that the “project and its announcement are totally unauthorized.”

“I hate the script and I control the music in Thelonious’s catalogue,” T.S. Monk said. “There is no involvement by anyone in the Monk family with this project, and we actually condemn the effort.”

In an Instagram video, Bey responded to T.S. Monk’s statement on Thursday: “Let me be clear, if the Monk estate is not happy with it, if Mr. Monk III is not happy with it, then neither am I. To be clear, I was given every indication by the production company that the family was on board. That was one of my primary questions … I took them at their word, and clearly that wasn’t the case.”


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Produced by Alberto Marzan and Peter Lord Moreland of Jupiter Rising Film, Thelonious is scheduled to begin production in the summer of 2022.

Moreland is writing the screenplay, which “will centre around [Monk’s] struggles for musical success, mental illness and the spiritual love triangle between his wife Nellie and one of the world’s richest women, Nica Rothschild,” according to Wednesday’s press release from the production company.

“It’s an honour to be the first to tell this important story in an epic way since it’s never been told before, we are swinging for the fences on this one,” Marzan said in the press release. “It’s a luxury to be the team to tell this important story.”

One of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, Thelonious Monk was known for his unique and groundbreaking improvisational style, his fascinatingly unorthodox method of playing and his many contributions to the jazz canon, composing time-tested standards such as ‘Round Midnight and Straight, No Chaser. In 2006, he was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize for “a body of distinguished and innovative musical composition that has had a significant and enduring impact on the evolution of jazz.”

Last year saw the release of Palo Altoa long-lost recording of Thelonious Monk performing at a high school in California.

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