164

Various: Monkadelphia

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
That scrappy, enterprising and creative jazz label out of Philadelphia, Encounter Records, has done it again by documenting some encounters of that city's musicians with the artist known as Monk.

Rather than retreading often-heard arrangements of Monk's tunes, with only the players changing, the Philadelphians of "Monkadelphia" have created their own approach to Thelonious' challenging music. Recorded before an audience at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, the style that distinguishes this CD involves colors and texture. The contributions of the group's co-founder, vibraphonist Tony Miceli, doesn't create a problem of chorded instrument collision, as might be expected, but rather enrich the concert with shimmers, interjections and referential Monk-like tremolos. The musician of the other chorded instrument—pianist and the other co-founder, Tom Lawton—accompanies, startles and expands upon the music's implications. Miceli's role becomes ever more evident as the CD proceeds. "Ugly Beauty," for example, unfolds pedal by pedal until the fullness of the performance's scope becomes clear, mostly because Miceli leads a rhythmic free-for-all with Micah Jones on bass and Jim Miller on drums until it dissolves into a bass-led melody.

In addition, tenor saxophonist Chris Farr assumes the Charlie Rouse role, while singer Suzanne Cloud recalls the classic Carmen McRae work on "Carmen Sings Monk." While Farr goes angular during the CD's opening track, "We See," Miceli calms things down by redirecting the rhythm with a vibes solo that seemingly inspires Lawton to romp through a two-handed exercise of Monk-like wake-up calls involving unexpected pounding and upper-register play. Bassist Jones brings home a fun and precisely articulated solo, leading the listener to believe that "Monkadelphia" will consist of trading of solos on each of the tunes.

No so. The Monkadelphians are more talented and clever than that.

"Ask Me Now" consists of a voice and piano colloquy, Cloud taking the lead and Lawton obviously watching her on stage to fill in accompaniment until it's his turn to step forth in full bloom of spare and ruminative solo development. On the other hand, "Monk's Mood" starts with an eloquent interchange between Farr and Miceli, the rhythm elastic and the melody investigated from out of the box. They develop more of a streaming of the music, instead of the more familiar start-and-stop feel of the tune. "Thelonious" positively pops and percolates with vibes and tenor phrasing until the song's essence finally is distilled into a straight-ahead, or straighter-ahead, feel. "Four In One" evolves into medley of Monk tunes, including "Skippy" and "Trinkle Tinkle". The difficulty of the three tunes' lines, played with assertiveness and unisoned accuracy, converge into a conclusion making plain the obvious shared inspiration behind the compositions.

Unrestrained by conventional, and ironically standardized, approaches to Monk's tunes, the musicians of "Monkadelphia", while drawing upon the same influence, take his music in personalized directions. Which is as it should be.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Heart Knows CD/LP/Track Review Heart Knows
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Jersey CD/LP/Track Review Jersey
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Wobbly Danse Flower CD/LP/Track Review Wobbly Danse Flower
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Carry Fire CD/LP/Track Review Carry Fire
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 22, 2017
Read A Night Walking Through Mirrors CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Barry Witherden
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jondo CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read "Seaside" CD/LP/Track Review Seaside
by John Eyles
Published: January 30, 2017
Read "The Journey" CD/LP/Track Review The Journey
by James Nadal
Published: January 5, 2017
Read "Tom Haines Live" CD/LP/Track Review Tom Haines Live
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 15, 2017
Read "All Through the Night" CD/LP/Track Review All Through the Night
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: June 17, 2017
Read "Desire & Freedom" CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2016
Read "A Secret Sigh" CD/LP/Track Review A Secret Sigh
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 21, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.