Monk's compositions are some of the best in jazz. His most famous songs include, 'Round Midnight,' 'Brilliant Corners,' 'Pannonica' and 'Straight, No Chaser.' His style of piano playing, with its constant challenges to traditional rhythm and harmony, is the most distinctive in the history of the music. Monk created musical drama that felt like watching a house of cards teeter back and forth but never fall.
His recording debut came in 1944 in Coleman Hawkins' band. He helped develop the bebop sound with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Clarke. From 1951 to 1957 Monk was prohibited from playing some of the bigger jazz clubs in New York because of the 'cabaret card' law. Later Monk recorded with Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Like Lester Young, he was considered one of the true original personalities in jazz.