Monday, October 15, 2018

Thelonious Monk - Monk (Gearbox Records, 2018)

The story behind this wonderful live album is almost too good to be true: It was recorded by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation in 1963 and broadcast a few days later before being shelved. Gearbox Records owner Darrel Sheinman bought the tapes from dealer who was going to throw them away! There are many Monk live albums, but I think this one should make people sit up and take notice, he was at one of his peaks and playing with one of his longest lasting bands with John Ore on bass, Frankie Dunlop on drums and Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone. The play the regular Monk repertoire with wit and verve starting with "Bye-Ya" and its wonderful flag waving melody leads to a bright and shining improvisation that everyone puts their backs into. This group had been playing together for four years at this point and they had reached sublime levels of familiarity with Monk's music and the surprises contained within. Rouse's solo is stoic and gritty with crisp bass and drums behind him and Monk adding huge chords to further light the path. Monk's own solo is nimble and filled with graceful jabs and runs down the keyboard carving his own unique way through the music with thick bounding bass and subtle percussion framing him. "Nutty" has a memorable thematic statement, one that allows the band to move forth confidently and explore the terrain with Rouse out front playing in an elegant and unadorned manner with a delightful tone and wonderful pacing and narrative to his solo. Monk carries the weight with Ore right beside him and they intertwine beautifully with Dunlop shading them with spare drumming. Everyone returns for a breezy and upbeat return through the theme. Monk takes a deceptively old-timey solo piano introduction to "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" before the band crashes in and modernizes it in a hurry with sandpapery tenor saxophone cutting through the sentiment like a lance propelled by taut bass and drums. He makes way for Monk to take a bouncing and percussive solo, leaning heavy on the keys and driving the music and the band relentlessly forward. "Monk's Dream" closes out the album with a wonderful performance, the band playing the dynamic melody and using its complexity to inform their own playing, like Rouse's steely bop based solo, over Monk's hard, slashing piano comping, which the leader carries over into his own feature, with a fleet command of the piano that allows him to go wherever he wishes and making it work with wit and grace. Monk -

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