Drummer Chuck Bernstein, pianist Si Perkoff and bassist Sam Bevan collectively known as Monk's Music Triohave been playing the music of Thelonious Monk at the Simple Pleasures Café in San Francisco on Monday nights since 1999. That makes them the longest of the repertory bands performing Monk's music. Time has also given them an insight into the compositions, enough for them to give them a twist and keep them interesting.
The trio is comfortable in the zone of Monk's music. Bernstein believes that the essence of jazz drumming is to swing. He gets right into the groove on the well-chosen opener, "Let's Call This. The trio calls it just fine, dishing out a scintillating take. Perkoff soaks in the radiance of the theme before he romps along indulging in the melody, fleshing it without losing the core instinct. Some of the best moments come when Bernstein and Perkoff trade fours, but the three are always in close harmony.
The trio takes lesser-known tunes like "Brake's Sake and "Something in Blue, setting them up with well-roasted chestnuts. The first has Bevan set up the tempo, with Bernstein adding his cymbal strikes. Perkoff lets the spirit of Monk guide him, his playing reminiscent of Monk in its stylistic approach. The second is a quiet blues. Perkoff leaves space and time for Bernstein to swish in with his brushes and, as he goes on to invent his own, he does so with an air of deliberation.
Green Chimneys is another tune that fits right in with their approach. Perkoff brims the melody in a welter of sparkle. Bernstein wraps the beat with thick cymbal textures. He does set up a brief window for Perkoff's block chords, moves into a solo and returns to his core.
The music is competent enough, yet there is an inescapable feeling that it is all a bit too pat and slick.