Saturday, December 02, 2006

Elliot Sharp - Sharp? Monk? Sharp! Monk! (Clean Feed, 2006)

Guitarist Elloit Sharp has covered a lot of ground in his career, from gutbucket blues to experimental jazz, he has never been afraid to tackle tough projects. On this, his most recent album for the Portuguese Clean Feed label, he radically reinterprets some of the most well known pieces of the Thelonious Monk songbook on unaccompanied solo guitar. Many tributes have come Monk's way since his death, most were very respectful to his knotty sensibilities, but few tried to re-imagine Monk's unique music. That as at the core of Sharp's mission here, stripping Monk's music down to the chassis to find out what makes him roll so well. The well known melodies are still there, but they are reflected through the funhouse of Sharp's Shackleton-like explorations. The melody for "Bemsha Swing" is picked out carefully before being deconstructed, "Round Midnight" keeps its noir sensibility, but leaves its New York stomping grounds for a near Waits-ian trip to distant lands. "Mysterioso" and especially "Well You Needn't" most successfully meld Monk's jumpy melodies to Sharp's minimalist explorations. This can be a tough listen, somewhat along the lines of Sharp's colleague Marc Ribot's Saints LP from a few years ago, just not as eclectic. But as Monk tributes go, it's definitely an original one, and does manage to shed some new light on the well dissected corpus of Thelonious Monk's music.

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