Recorded in 1983 and 1994, Wynton Marsalis’ homage to composer and pianist Thelonious Monk has the orchestral sound that encompasses many of the trumpeter’s recordings. His cohesive ensemble arrangements feature each member with brief individual solo statements that fit together seamlessly. Analogous to the tactics of a basketball team, Marsalis’ septet "passes the ball" from trombonist to trumpeter to saxophonist to pianist and back. The orchestral sound allows one to recognize the familiar voices immediately (Wycliffe Gordon and Wessell Anderson shine brightly), but it’s still a team effort. Monk’s music arms the septet with surprise endings, quirky twists and turns, and even surprise grand entrances. Eric Reed’s piano artistry by itself makes a suitable tribute to Monk. The piano trio works alone in a swinging "Brilliant Corners."
Marsalis provides solo trumpet features on several of the arrangements, but the album’s concept is clearly an ensemble project. Ballads "Ugly Beauty" and "Reflections" showcase his full, sensual open trumpet sound, while "Four In One" and "Brake’s Sake" swing much faster. The session’s closing number is one of the most charming on the program. Featuring saxophonist Victor Goines, the arrangement begins with drummer Herlin Riley playing the familiar melody lightly on his drumheads. Eventually the piece turns it over to Marsalis and the septet. The music bounces as lightly and buoyantly as it did in Marsalis’ soundtrack to Tune In Tomorrow. Highly Recommended.
Track Listing: Thelonious; Evidence; We See; Monk
Personnel: Wynton Marsalis- trumpet; Walter Blanding, Victor Goines- tenor sax; Wessell Anderson- alto sax; Wycliffe Gordon- trombone; Eric Reed- piano; Ben Wolfe, Reginald Veal- bass; Herlin Riley- drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.