The connection to Monk is a particularly strong one. "He's just a great example of someone completely connected to the musical environment he grew up in but also completely original, completely found his own thing and went with that," says Bernstein. The guitarist's latest album was a challenge not unlike his recent ventures into solo playing, a disc solely consisting of Monk tunes done in trio with bassist Doug Weiss and Bernstein's longtime drummer Bill Stewart. Titled simply Monk and released on the reincarnated Xanadu label, this is only Bernstein's second trio album and first to include any tunes by the iconoclastic pianist. "I'd always been trying to learn his music, play a couple of his tunes here and there, but I got a chance to do this recording...I was thinking about doing some Monk tunes and... I thought why not try to tackle a whole record of Monk tunes, give it a kind of identity of its own hopefully. ...I feel like you have to play these tunes 20 years before you're really ready to do it but I didn't have 20 years so I tried to not do anything that different with the tunes. One tune we played in 5/4 so that changed up the feeling but everything else was pretty much the tempo that felt comfortable but not a radical departure from the original tune, just trying to get in the space of playing trio was the main thing too. Tackling his music I thought would make me play different which I think it did. It's a continuing thing for me. I'd like to do more of Monk's tunes and I'd like to do more trio for sure because of the space that it offers you."
Larry Goldings, Light Blue (Minor Music, 1992)
Peter Bernstein, Signs of Life (Criss Cross, 1994)
Jimmy Cobb's Mob, Cobb's Groove (Milestone, 2003)
Dr. Lonnie Smith, Jungle Soul (Palmetto, 2005)
Don FriedmanWaltz for Marilyn (Jazz Excursion, 2007)
Peter Bernstein Trio, Monk (Xanadu, 2007-08)