In November of 2000 aboard a ship adrift on the Atlantic Ocean, reedman Joe Temperley joined pianist Junior Mance's Floating Jazz Festival Trio in what proved to be a perfect setting for a tribute to the music of Thelonious Monk. Like Monk, the waters beneath them were capable of powerful swings and torrents, and also like Monk, their music was pronounced amid a shroud of relative isolation.
Throughout this live set, Temperley and Mance - joined by the gifted rhythm section of bassist Peter Washington and veteran drummer Mickey Roker – drive Monk's music to deserved heights and moody lows. The opener, "Blue Monk," is given a gin-soaked treatment by Temperley's swaying bass clarinet, which is then reinforced by an appropriately blue-hued Mance solo and finally cemented by Washington's spot-lit rolls and picks.
On "Ask Me Now," Temperley cedes the floor to the trio, leaving them to take on one of Monk's more lyrical and melancholic works. They do so ably and with utmost care – evoking an image of Monk as the delicate dynamo he was. Another highlight is the group's work on the infectiously swinging "Rhythm-A-Ning." Mance pulls out all the stops from gate to gate, while Temperley, on baritone sax, flutters and flips his way through with remarkable dexterity.
From start to finish, it is evident that these four know their Monk. In fact, so familiar are they with the material that they infused it with a charming, lived-in quality which few other ensembles could manage. Their approach to the artist is hardly revolutionary, but rather warm, intimate and accustomed.
It's hard to say whether Monk ever sailed the seas on a sprawling cruiseliner, but thanks to Mance, Temperley and company we now know that setting would have agreed with him just fine.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Personnel: Joe Temperley - bass clarinet, baritone sax, soprano sax;
Keter Betts - bass;
Junior Mance - piano;
Mickey Roker - drums;
Peter Washington - bass;
Jackie Williams - drums.