399

Tony Kofi Quartet: Plays Monk (All Is Know)

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Tony Kofi Quartet: Plays Monk (All Is Know) First making a name for himself on the British jazz scene in '91 as a member of the high profile young Turks the Jazz Warriors, Tony Kofi went on to guest with a wide variety of artists during the first half of the '90s—from the David Murray Big Band, Jazz Jamaica and Eddie Henderson to Queen Latifah and Salt-N-Pepa—before joining the Township Express Orchestra and Tim Richards' Great Spirit, both of which he continues to play with. He is a red blooded and muscular soloist in whom Charlie Parker's wild, unruly tone is often writ enjoyably large, and who is also capable of moments of delicate, tender lyricism. His first horn is the alto, but he also plays soprano and an earthy yet fleet fingered baritone (more Leo Parker than Gerry Mulligan).

Incredibly—and rather shamingly for the British record business—this is Kofi's first release as leader, a full thirteen years after his emergence with the Warriors. But that's another story, and an old one.

The Tony Kofi Quartet, the members of which began woodshedding the Thelonious Monk songbook together in '00, debuted in fall '03 at the London Jazz Festival with a marathon six hour set in which they played every one of Monk's seventy known written compositions. The Quartet is part of the larger Monk Liberation Front ensemble—co-led by Kofi, pianist Jonathan Gee and composer Philip Clark—dedicated to bringing Monk's oeuvre to new audiences while also commissioning original work informed by Monk's legacy and spirit.

So Kofi and his colleagues have paid their dues and spent plenty time getting inside the head of their spirit guide. And Plays Monk (All Is Know) itself is a blast: a respectful (without being slavishly so) and insightful celebration of fourteen of Monk's compositions. Unlike some albums given over entirely to Monk's works, for instance Esbjorn Svensson Trio's own excellent Plays Monk, the Quartet mix up some of the best known Monk standards with lesser known gems, some which many listeners will probably be hearing for the first time here. Half of the tracks feature the core alto-led quartet, while the other half ring the changes with a string arrangement (Philip Clark's sepulchral chart for "Ugly Beauty"), or with Kofi playing other saxophones (the closing "Monk's Mood" on unaccompanied baritone is especially memorable), or with a guest artist. (Orphy Robinson's lovely marimba on "Misterioso," at 9'01" the longest track on the album—and a reminder of how well tuned percussion fits into Monk's work, probably because, without decrying his harmonic or melodic genius, Monk often approached the piano as a piece of tuned percussion.)

Not only the first own-name album for Tony Kofi, Plays Monk (All Is Know) is also the first release on Proper Records' contemporary Specific Jazz imprint—and it's an auspicious, hugely enjoyable and thoroughly convincing new beginning on both fronts.


Track Listing: Boo Boo's Birthday; Ugly Beauty; Trinkle Tinkle; Ruby My Dear; Brilliant Corners; Comin' On The Hudson; We See; Crepuscule With Nellie; Teo; Misterioso; Gallop's Gallop; Light Blue; Think Of One; Monk's Mood.

Personnel: Tony Kofi, alto, soprano and baritone saxes; Jonathan Gee, piano; Ben Hazleton, bass; Winston Clifford, drums; Orphy Robinson, marimba; Reiad Chibah, viola; Andrew Joyce, cello; Madeleine Easton, violin.

Title: Plays Monk (All Is Know) | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Specific Jazz


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Towards Language CD/LP/Track Review Towards Language
by John Eyles
Published: June 23, 2017
Read The Romeo and Juliet Project CD/LP/Track Review The Romeo and Juliet Project
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 23, 2017
Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 23, 2017
Read Crystal Machine CD/LP/Track Review Crystal Machine
by Glenn Astarita
Published: June 23, 2017
Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "Sunrain" CD/LP/Track Review Sunrain
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 3, 2016
Read "Fierce Silence" CD/LP/Track Review Fierce Silence
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "New Jazz Standards, Volume 2" CD/LP/Track Review New Jazz Standards, Volume 2
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 8, 2017
Read "Storyteller" CD/LP/Track Review Storyteller
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: February 5, 2017
Read "Escualo" CD/LP/Track Review Escualo
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 24, 2016
Read "The Digging" CD/LP/Track Review The Digging
by Budd Kopman
Published: July 31, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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