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Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble: Elegy for Thelonious


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Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble: Elegy for Thelonious
Pianist Frank Carlberg has been exploring the music of Thelonious Monk for some time, most specifically on his large group album, Monk Dreams, Hallucinations, and Nightmares, (Sunnyside, 2017). This new album has Carlberg returning to the large ensemble format for more Monk investigations, but this time approaching the work in a more splintered and abstract fashion.

He does not simply interpret familiar Monk tunes. He writes compositions and arrangements which stitch Monk riffs and ideas into new fabrics, sometimes adding bits of older tunes the pianist covered. For example, "Spooky Rift We Pat" is a mash-up of Monk's "Skippy" and lines from "Tea For Two." Carlberg's work is a shifting mix of contrasting lines and sections which reflect Monk's prickly melodies but turn them into varied new forms. The resulting music can sound as sleek as a Gil Evans arrangement or as chaotic as the Globe Unity Orchestra. The most ambitious piece is the creeping, bluesy "Elegy" which puts a Yusef Komunyakaa poem on Monk's death, recited by Christine Correa, against low moaning reeds and brass, and also tosses in bits of "Crepuscule with Nellie" and "Abide With Me."

Carlberg's pieces also leave plenty of room for strong solo statements. Kirk Knuffke's shuddering trumpet comes on powerfully on "Scallop's Scallop" while "Brake Tune" opens with extended tenor saxophone warbling from Hery Paz and closes with moaning synthesizer waves from Leo Genovese, with clockwork horn riffs dominating the middle section. "Wanting More" is based on a bit of Monk advice. It features John Carlson's trumpet sailing tensely over Genovese's brittle piano runs as vocalists Correa and Priya Carlberg surge underneath. "Out of Steam" is a transformation of Monk's "Locomotive" with Carlberg and the band making chugging train sounds and Nathan Reising roaring wildly on alto saxophone.

There are elements of surprise and mischief in this music which are very appropriate considering where it sprang from. Frank Carlberg has expanded Monk's unique world into compositions which bloom with unorthodox beauty yet remain within recognizable jazz parameters. As Monk tributes go, this is one of the best in recent times and one of the first outstanding jazz releases of the year.

Track Listing

Spooky Rift We Pat; Out of Steam; Wanting More; Elegy for Thelonious; Scallop’s Scallop; Wrinkle on Trinkle; Brake Tune.


Frank Carlberg
composer / conductor
Sam Hoyt
Brian Drye
Leo Genovese
Kim Cass
bass, acoustic
John Carlson
Kirk Knuffke
Tyler Bonilla
Max Seigel
Jeremy Udden
Adam Kolker
Hery Paz
Andrew Hadro

Album information

Title: Elegy for Thelonious | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records

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