206

Jessica Williams: Deep Monk

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
Do we really need another tribute to Thelonious Sphere Monk? Everybody who is anybody in the jazz game has put a Monk song on an album. Some have been so bold as to dedicate an entire album to the odd and angular songs full of playful dissonance and unexpected angles.

Not easy tunes to play, they say. But the jazz family patriarch, Ellis Marsalis, does a masterful job of it on An Open Letter to Thelonious (ELM Music, 2008), employing, as Monk did almost exclusively in the masterful twilight years of his career at Columbia Records, a quartet fronted by a saxophone.

Pianist Jessica Williams, with Deep Monk, goes another route: playing Monk compositions—and tunes that Thelonious made his own: "Easy Street," "April in Paris," "Ghost of a Chance"—solo, a mode that Monk didn't go to often enough.

Williams' jazz world profile isn't where it should be, and her decision to forgo the major label game and sell only from her own website—a la ArtistShare—might contribute to a lower recognition factor. But listening to Tatum's Ultimatum (Red and Blue Recordings, 2008) or Songs for a New Century Origin Records, 2008) makes clear that Williams ranks with Keith Jarrett, or beyond.

Deep Monk does the same.

Monk himself closed his excellent and somewhat overlooked live album, Misterioso (Riverside Records, 1958), with its title tune, and Williams closed her own Live at Yoshi's, Volume One (MaxJazz, 2004) with it. She opens Deep Monk with that same, familiar melody, on a take that gets deep into the pensive beauty of Monk's mind.

Throughout the set—on classic, beautiful gems like "Crepuscule With Nellie," "Ugly Beauty," and "Blues Five Spot"—Williams explores the music of Monk with respect, alongside her own small flourishes and moments of unalloyed joy. She seems a perfect soul mate for that giant of jazz.

So, do we really need another Monk tribute? You're damned right we do: Deep Monk.

Track Listing: Misterioso; April in Paris; Easy Street; Ugly Beauty; Crepuscule With Nellie; Monk's Mood; I Should Care; Ghost of a Chance; Blues Five Spot.

Personnel: Jessica Williams: piano.

Title: Deep Monk | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Red and Blue Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Whispers on the Wind CD/LP/Track Review Whispers on the Wind
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 23, 2017
Read Shropshire Lads: Songs to the Poems of AE Housman CD/LP/Track Review Shropshire Lads: Songs to the Poems of AE Housman
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 23, 2017
Read Heptagon CD/LP/Track Review Heptagon
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 23, 2017
Read ON Tour CD/LP/Track Review ON Tour
by John Kelman
Published: October 22, 2017
Read On a Distant Shore CD/LP/Track Review On a Distant Shore
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets CD/LP/Track Review Friends & Heroes: Guitar Duets
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 22, 2017
Read "Imaginist" CD/LP/Track Review Imaginist
by Mike Jacobs
Published: December 1, 2016
Read "Ephimeral" CD/LP/Track Review Ephimeral
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Passin' Thru" CD/LP/Track Review Passin' Thru
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 29, 2017
Read "A Multitude of Angels" CD/LP/Track Review A Multitude of Angels
by John Kelman
Published: December 1, 2016
Read "Sabiduria/Wisdom" CD/LP/Track Review Sabiduria/Wisdom
by James Nadal
Published: April 21, 2017
Read "Rebirth" CD/LP/Track Review Rebirth
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 4, 2017

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY IT!  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.