T.S. Monk's latest release, Crosstalk flirts perilously close to smooth jazz with it's drum machine fills and synthesizer washes, but make no mistake, this is masterfully performed jazz by a musician who knows exactly what he's doing. After the great critical and commercial success of "Monk on Monk," T.S. decided it was safe to finally do what he's dreamed of for years: blend elements of pop and funk with jazz to create something that was truly his own as he says "to come across as a cross between Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and Blood Sweat and Tears.". He's succeeded remarkably well. The CD and the T.S. Monk Band has a lot going for it. Don Sickler has selected and arranged a majority of the tunes and his musical tastes are impeccable. One wonderful surprise is "Smile of the Snake" that appeared on Art Farmer's great 1987 CD, "Blame It on My Youth." And although many of the tunes are on the smooth side, all the solos are beautifully conceived. For instance, on the ballad, "A Touching Affair," the trading of solos between flute and flugelhorn and then soprano and alto saxophones is wonderfully mellow without the cloying sweetness of most smooth jazz. "Squeaky Clean" by pianist Ray Gallon is the only really straight ahead sounding tune, with a Monkish feel to it and "A Chant for Bu" swings with a syncopated rhythm. The title Tune "Cross Talk" could be from one of Miles Davis' mid 80's CDs. Believe it or not, T.s. even sings on two tracks, the rousing "Somebody Give Me a Drink" and the ballad "Just a Little Loin" where he's joined by vocalist Patricia Barber. Both are very enjoyable. All the solos from Willie Williams, Bob Porcelli and Don Sickler are terrificthe harmony and interplay are especially notable. Like all great jazz albums, there's so much good stuff going on here that repeated listenings yield new treasures. I predict this album will do very well because there's so much to enjoy, no matter what kind of jazz you like.
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