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Although I don’t mean to sound as though I’m damning with faint praise, Green Chimneys is better than I thought it might be. Guitarist Andy Summers, best known for his work with the rock group the Police, is, as it turns out, a longtime fan of Thelonious Monk, hence this well–meaning if not always riveting tribute to Monk’s music. Summers, naturally, is the glue on which the success of the enterprise depends, and he does his best to bind things together, even inviting some of his musical friends to lend a hand. Sting, Summers’ former band mate with the Police, stops by to offer a warm, subdued rendition of “’Round Midnight.” Other guests include organist Joey DeFrancesco, trumpeter Walt Fowler, saxophonist Steve Tavaglione and cellist Hank Roberts (who shows clearly on “Monk’s Dream” why the cello has never become a sought–after Jazz instrument). Drummer Erskine (replaced by Dressel on “Boo Boo Birthday” and the medley, “Light Blue/Rhythmaning”) keeps the rhythm humming, and the energy level rises a notch whenever DeFrancesco appears. Summers is a respectable contemporary Jazz guitarist (who sounds about like any other respectable contemporary Jazz guitarist). One of the nicest things we can say about Green Chimneys is that, with the possible exception of “’Round Midnight,” “Ugly Beauty” or perhaps “Ruby My Dear,” one isn’t likely to hear it played on “smooth” or “lite Jazz” radio. It’s ’way over their heads.
Track listing: Green Chimneys; Hackensack; Brilliant Corners; Monk’s Dream; ’Round Midnight; Bemsha Swing; Shuffle Boil; Boo Boo Birthday; Evidence; Ugly Beauty; Think of One; Light Blue/Rhythmaning; Ruby My Dear (57:27).
Andy Summers, guitar, banjo, dobro; Dave Carpenter, acoustic, electric bass; Peter Erskine, Bernie Dressel (8, 12), drums; Sting, vocal (5); Hank Roberts, cello (2