Thelonius: Reminisce (2012)
Guitarist Tim Baker, bassist Dan Darbon and drummer Richard Evans formed Theloniusonly one O, it should be notedin December 2011. Pianist Tom McMahon-Hore and reeds player Imogen Walker joined in the months that followed. The musicians' inspirations are wide-ranging, including drummer Questlove , hip-hop producer J Dilla, Robert Glasper, Miles Davis, British folk band Bellowhead and, unsurprisingly, Thelonious Monk.
This is the band's first release and a very egalitarian recording it is. There's no obvious leader or star soloist in Thelonius, but each player makes a distinctive contribution and the four original tunes are all credited as whole-band compositions. Baker adds fat and funky chords to the intro of "M'Njun" and underpins the unutterably cheerful "Voodoo Monkey" with a looser, more soulful set. Evansan ex-covers band drummer who only discovered hip-hop at the age of 47has a slinky, hip, style that reflects some of the hard-hitting grooves of his own inspiration, The Roots' Questlove. McMahon-Hore and Darbon both skillfully combine melody and rhythm, working with Evans to anchor every single tune.
The one cover track, "Stakes Is High > T. R. O. Y. (They Reminisce Over You)," is the band's tribute to J Dillawho co-produced De La Soul's "Stakes Is High"and Pete Rock, who produced "T. R. O. Y. (They Reminisce Over You)" and performed it with CL Smooth. Thelonius' arrangement, looser and a little more upbeat than the originals, does justice to both tunes.
Thelonius' most fascinating and attention-grabbing tune is the wonderful "Spanish Joint." It starts and ends with a piano and oboe duet from McMahon-Hore and Walker which is given a scratchy, eerie, sound as if being played on a 78RPM shellac disc. The duet's melancholy beauty is heightened by the song's Middle Eastern-flavored mid-section, which mixes Baker's fiery guitar, McMahon-Hore's fluid piano phrases and more of Walker's ethereal oboe.
Lest this should all seem too good to be true, there is a complaint to be made. Reminisce is just under 19 minutes long, an EP rather than LP. At a point in history when far too many artists attempt to stretch a few decent ideas out to 70 or 75 minutes, Thelonius stands guilty of doing the opposite. There are many, many possibilities hinted at here; this is a set of tunes that tantalizes and teases. Of course, being tantalized and teased isn't a bad thing. It's often a really good thing. So, not a complaint at all, really; just a request that next time it all lasts a bit longer.
Track Listing: M'Njun; Stakes Is High > T. R. O. Y. (They Reminisce Over You); Spanish Joint; The Lizard; Voodoo Monkey.
Personnel: Imogen Walker: oboe, saxophone; Tom McMahon-Hore: piano, electric piano; Tim Baker: guitars; Dan Darbon: electric bass; Richard Evans: drums, percussion.
Record Label: Self Produced