Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Teodross Avery - Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk (WJ3 Records, 2020)

Coming hard on the heels of last years excellent collection of John Coltrane compositions, tenor and soprano saxophonist Teodross Avery turns to the great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk with the support of two different quartets. He is accompanied by pianists Anthony Wonsey and D.D. Jackson, bassist Corcoran Holt, drummers Willie Jones III and Marvin “Bugalu” Smith and percussionist Allakoi Peete. The band looked to present this album as analysis and interpretation of Monk's music, rather than tribute, beginning with "Teo," which has a fast strong full band attack, while Wonsey's piano sounds very un-Monk like, lush and fluid, punctuated by short drum bursts and Avery's inspired sounding saxophone playing. "Monk's Dream" has great propulsive bass, and appears to be much closer to the monk orthodoxy, but sounding mighty fine. The tight piano, bass and drums unit swings admirably, and Avery solos with impressive vigor over comping piano swelling bass and drums, adding a fine and well deserved bass solo to boot. The group kicks back into overdrive on "Evidence" with full band's powerhouse playing taking off from the melody and just flowing, until Avery lays out for a frisky piano trio segment, with rippling fast keyboard and drums letting loose, before the leader dives back in for the finale. "Rhythm-a-Ning" takes the jaunty theme at a breakneck pace leading to a thrilling bebop laced solo from Avery over boiling accompaniment.  Piano bass and drums at a lightning pace with the keyboard teasing the theme, motoring bass and brushes are very impressive. Incorporating some interesting stride like piano, "In Walked Bud" has an attention getting sound even before Avery nails the theme with a strong robust saxophone tone, leading into a stellar narrative rich solo. The pianist (Jackson) really shines, digging deep into the melody to craft a towering solo framed by strong bass and drums, and stepping aside for another fine round of solos for bass and drums. On "Ugly Beauty," Avery moves to soprano saxophone, adding a different texture and hue to the proceedings, playing with a lighter touch, sliding around the deft drumming and subtle cascades of piano notes with aplomb. "Trinkle Tinkle" is short and bouncy track with everybody getting on on the fun and sounding like they are really enjoying themselves. The piano  is brisk and prickly, delivering a taut solo that nods to the master while setting in its own path, and Avery's tenor saxophone carves up a fine featured statement as well, leading to an excellent overall performance. This album worked very well, and the musicians achieved their goal of presenting their own personal interpretation of Thelonious Monk's music. Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk - amazon.com

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