Underground Horns: Funk Monk (2009)
Alto saxophonist Welf Dorr has spent the last several years putting his own unique spin on the brass band, an instrumental lineup that is usually found in NYC crossing jazz with Balkan music. Although Dorr does look to Serbia for part of his musical muse he also draws heavily on a host of things including Afro-Cuban rhythms, funk and Thelonious Monk; thus the title of this release from his Underground Horns.
Tubaist Joe Keady, who must have listened to a lot of bassist Bootsy Collins during his musically formative years, more than makes up for the latter instrument's absence on this session with up-in-the-mix lines. Dorr draws on the power of a lineup that, along with his alto, includes drums, conga, tuba, trumpet and trombone to produce kick-ass dance music but doesn't devolve into parody. This is really wonderful new brassy jazz fusion music that even brushes up against psychedelia with the superb epic jam "Sympaticus" that features Keady, conguero Enrique Arrosa and drummer Kevin Raczka laying down a complex percussive background.
Alternate funky takes on Charles Mingus' homage to saxophonist Lester Young, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," appropriately begin and close this program while the title cut achieves its stated aim as Monk's stylistic quirkiness is given a funky presentation. John Coltrane's "Miles Mode" and Monk's own "Evidence" are given similar shots of funky brass juice while the remainder of the program is stylistically diverse. "Ethio" is the most overtly Balkan sounding of the bunch and as such is an infectious charmer while Don Redman's nugget "Gee Baby (Ain't I Good 2 U)" is a slow blues burner. "Cherry" uses an infectious tuba hook to allow the musicians plenty of room to improvise and this version of bassist Tony Scherr's beautifully subtle Mid-Eastern infused "Almost Believe in Everything" amazingly maintains the tune's delicate intent.
Track Listing: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Funk Monk; Ethio; Gee Baby (Ain't I Good 2 U); Cherry; Almost Believe in Everything; Miles Mode; Evidence; Sympaticus; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (alt take).
Personnel: Welf Dorr: alto saxophone; Mike Irwin: trumpet; Kevin Moehringer: trombone; Joe Keady: tuba; Kevin Raczka: drums; Enrique Arrosa: conga.
Record Label: Self Produced