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Live Reviews

Monkadelphia at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

By Published: October 7, 2005
The dozen or so Monk tunes they performed in their two sets at the Art Museum are full of the musical "tongue twisters and unusual modulations for which Thelonious was noted. Few groups would dare perform them all in one night. These gentlemen ran through them like Cole Porter standards. Frequently, they engaged in simultaneous improvisations which took on a life of their own. At times, the sheer speed of articulation was mind-boggling. The effect was electrifying, a musical Cirque de Soleil, while the melodies and the chord structures were strictly perceptible throughout.

The Art Museum setting made the implicit statement that all the arts are one. Each fine painting, sculpture, and musical performance takes a universal theme and gives it a unique life of its own that awakens a particular range of sensations, emotions, and ideas in the viewer or listener. The true artistic creation says something that can't be said any other way than by those particular colors, shapes, and sounds. The idea of presenting live musical performances in the midst of great works of art is inspired in this respect. It rescues creativity from didactic compartmentalization.

The only problem I encountered at the concert were the acoustics of this unusual room. Despite the careful microphone and speaker placements by technician David Burgess, the concrete walls that ascend two stories high create an echo effect that markedly obscures the sound. The museum might want to consider some moveable or unobtrusive acoustic panels to direct the sound towards the audience and absorb some of the ambient reverberations. Until or unless that is done, those who really want to hear the music should arrive early and take a table or sit on the stairs close to and directly in front of the musicians. If you simply want to have a wonderful evening, you can sit anywhere and soak up the atmosphere. It's a rare opportunity to combine good music with a cocktail party atmosphere amid great works of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. And since the event typically runs from 5:30 to 8:30, you have the rest of the night still ahead of you.

Players: Tony Micelli, vibraphone, leader; Ben Schachter, tenor saxophone; Tom Lawton, piano; Madison Rast, bass; Jim Miller, drums


FIRST SET: Ugly Beauty; Bright Missisippi; Bemsha; Eronel; Epistrophy

SECOND SET: Blue Monk; Creppescule; Skippy; Reflections; Trinkle; Think of One; Round Midnight; Off Minor

Photo Credit
Victor L. Schermer

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