Music and Life of Thelonious Monk

Gary teaching class

“Gary Wittner is the first person I’ve heard who has taken the time to put my father’s music on the guitar correctly. My whole family loves what he does. Beautiful playing.” – T.S. Monk Jr.


“Gary Wittner is one of the leading experts on the music of Thelonius Monk. He is a scholar who can eliquently communicate the importance of this music from a historical perspective and he thoroughly understands the repertoire with respect to harmony and form. Most important, he is a wonderful guitar player who has many Monk tunes under his hands – with Monk’s voicing worked out on the fretboard. I’ve never heard another guitarist live or on record that has his command of Monk’s vocabulary and repertoire.” – Dr. Dave Dempsey, Coordinator of Jazz Studies, William Paterson Univeristy, Contributing Editor, Jazz Player Magazine


“…the guitar, on which Wittner emulated the chords and the dissonances, made an inspired substitute for Monk’s piano. This applied especially to ‘Reflections’ – one of the classic ballads whoe evolution from nice tune to performance of nerve-chilling intensity can be plotted unerringly on record. Wittner has clearly done so, and his solo version drew on Monk’s marvelously off-centered accretions while interpreting them for the guitar in his own way.” – The (London) Guardian

(More quotes at bottom of this page)


An acknowledged authority on the music and life of Thelonious Monk, Gary Wittner has presented concert/lectures on Monk at many universities and clubs throughout the USA and Europe including:

S. African National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, S. Africa

University of Cape Town, Cape Town, S. Africa

Berklee College of Music, Boston

The New School, New York

Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, St. Petersburg, Russia

Guild Hall School of Music, London

Musikhochschule Graz, Austria

Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, England

Leeds International Music Festival, Leeds, England

Akwarium Jazz Club, Warsaw

IAJE convention, Boston

International Summer Jazz Academy, Krakow, Poland

Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

Gary has been featured performing Monk’s music with many well respected jazz musicians including Christian McBride, Clark Terry, Reggie Workman, Eddit Gomez, Richard Davis, Paul McCandless, and James Emery.



• Lectures featuring indepth discussions on topics such as:

Biographical information on Monk’s career and personal life

Analysis of compositions, solos, and playing style – using transcriptions, audio and videotapes

Monk’s influence on other musicians: quotes from Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, etc.

• Ensemble direction of Monk compositions or standard repertoire

• Guitar Master Classes

• Discussing the process of transcribing Monk’s music to the guitar and applying techniques to other material

• Improvisation, chord voicings, use of seconds, whole tone ideas, etc.

• Building a repertoire for solo guitar

• Concert and Club Performances

• Repertoire selected from Monk compositions, originals by Wittner, jazz standards, and Blues/Folk Americana solo guitar arrangements

Additional Quotes:

“Thelonious would have loved what Gary is doing – really learning the music and then doing his own thing with it.”

 – Mrs. Nellie Monk

“Clearly one of the country’s authorities on the music of Thelonious Monk… (Gary’s) presentation was insightful, engaging and stimulating… (His) performance at our spring jazz concert with the faculty jazz ensemble, jazz big band, and the vocal jazz ensemble was exciting and inspiring.”

Dr. Gregory Yasinitsky
Coordinator of Jazz Studies
Washington State University

“Most guitarists adapt piano music to the guitar, Gary is adapting the guitar to piano music.”

Howard Johnson



Gary Wittner, 2021, All rights reserved. Gary/Guitar pictures used by permission. Photographer - Pepe Avilés.