Italian composer and pianist Stefano Travaglini advanced his standing in the crowded field of solo piano improvisers with Ellipse (Notami Jazz, 2017). That album of (mostly) extemporaneous creations exhibited Travaglini's capacity for coalescing abstraction and lyricism in often understated ways. Trained as a classical pianist under Arvo Part and Vince Mendoza, he benefitted from their broad expertise in multiple genres and styles and Travaglini applies those learnings to his new solo project MonkFifteen Piano Reflections.
Much of Thelonious Monk's relatively limited songbook has been covered ad nauseum by artists as diverse as Miles Davis, Donald Fagen and Was (Not Was). Rarely, however, has Monk's unique philosophy toward composition been treated to an interpretation like Travaglini's. The difficult melody of "Trinkle Tinkle," and the irascible, jagged style of "Well, You Needn't" are transformed into content which Claude Debussy might have produced. And there may not be a more elegant recorded version of "Round Midnight" than Travaglini's translation. The pianist retains the spirit of Monk's bristling, animated solo on "Straight No Chaser" but he adds more complexity to his accelerated adaptation. Travaglini offers interesting readings on "Ruby, My Dear," "Bemsha Swing" and "Evidence" but his take on "In Walked Bud" is one of the most impressive cuts on the album.
Much of MonkFifteen Piano Reflections presents the subject's music through an avant-garde/classical prism but there are more jazz-oriented approaches taken by Travaglini on "Monk's Dream" and "Brilliant Corners." These pieces have recognizable structures but Monk's unconventional and percussive techniques are replaced by Travaglini's lyrically impromptu creations. The same music from two very different perspectives; Thelonious Monk was an artist ahead of his time while Stefano Travaglini is solidifying his place in the chronology of modern music.
Trinkle Tinkle; Children’s Song; Well, You Needn’t; Ruby, My Dear; Criss Cross; Straight No Chaser; Ugly Beauty; Bemsha Swing; Round Midnight; Monk’s Dream; Introspection; Evidence; Brilliant Corners; Misterioso; In Walked Bud.
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