By Nate Chinen
Herbie Hancock, performing during the Thelonious Monk Jazz Trumpet Competition on November 9, 2014 in Los Angeles. The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, which presents these competitions, will change its name to the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz.
For more than 30 years, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz has been a nonprofit working at the intersection of music education, jazz appreciation and public policy. Beginning in the new year, it will continue those efforts under a new name: the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz.
The change was announced today by the organization’s Board of Trustees. A press statement noted that the decision had been unanimous, and was made “following a request by representatives of the Monk Estate regarding the continued use of Thelonious Monk’s name.”
Hancock, 78, has served as the organization’s board chairman for the last 15 years. A pianist, composer-bandleader and 14-time Grammy winner, he recused himself from voting on the matter.
“Having the Institute named in my honor is tremendously humbling and represents a profound moment for my family and me,” Hancock says in a statement. “I’m looking forward to continuing in my role as Institute Chairman and carrying on and expanding the organization’s important worldwide jazz education and humanitarian initiatives.”
The Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, probably the most visible manifestation of the organization’s efforts, was postponed last year on short notice; it had been scheduled for Monk’s centenary in October. At the time, T.S. Monk, the self-described gatekeeper of his father’s legacy, said he expected to continue his work with the institute. “I’ve been involved in every competition we’ve ever had,” he said, “and I don’t foresee that changing at all.”
Details for the 30th Monk Competition were recently disclosed: it will take place in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 2 and 3, and feature 14 young pianists from more than half a dozen countries. The jury will consist of jazz pianists from a few overlapping generations: Monty Alexander, Joanne Brackeen, Cyrus Chestnut, Jason Moran, Danilo Pérez, Renee Rosnes — and Hancock, for whom future editions of the competition will presumably be named.