Thelonious Monk Meets the French Critics: Improvisation and its Simulacra

Perchard, Tom. 2009. 'Thelonious Monk Meets the French Critics: Improvisation and its Simulacra'. In: Mediating Jazz. University of Salford. [Conference or Workshop Item]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

This paper considers Thelonious Monk's early- and mid-1960s performance style in light of the pianist's contemporary critical reception in France. By the early part of that decade, several Jazz Hot and Jazz Magazine writers had published articles expressing concern that Monk's music had ceased to 'evolve'; this critical trend reached something of an apotheosis in a 1964 Jazz Magazine article, in which Michel-Claude Jalard condemned Monk as having presented, in his February 1964 Paris concerts, the mere 'simulacrum' of former improvisations. Taking Jalard's nuanced argument as its cue, the article examines contemporary French critical definitions and valorizations of Monk's (and jazz's) improvisational practice with respect to ideas of performance and composition, art and entertainment, creation and routine, authorial presence and absence; the paper goes on to situate these critical oppositions within a history of Western Art Music aesthetics, arguing that in constructing value for jazz, some European jazz critics had essentially inverted art music's ideal of the Werktreue, and its relationship between speaking work and silent interpreter.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



27 November 2009Completed

Event Location:

University of Salford

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

26 Mar 2013 07:24

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 10:00


Edit Record Edit Record (login required)