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Thelonius: Reminisce

Bruce Lindsay By

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It's that pesky Bristol scene again. 2012 has already seen some fine albums emanating from the English city—Busnoys' By Tapering Torchlight (Tall Guy Records) and Andy Hague's Cross My Palm (Ooh-Err Records) are just two examples. Now along comes Reminisce, from the five-piece Thelonius, to further enhance the city's reputation for quality music.

Guitarist Tim Baker, bassist Dan Darbon and drummer Richard Evans formed Thelonius—only one O, it should be noted—in December 2011. Pianist Tom McMahon-Hore and reeds player Imogen Walker joined in the months that followed. The musicians' inspirations are wide-ranging, including drummer Questlove , hip-hop producer J Dilla, Robert Glasper, Miles Davis, British folk band Bellowhead and, unsurprisingly, Thelonious Monk.

This is the band's first release and a very egalitarian recording it is. There's no obvious leader or star soloist in Thelonius, but each player makes a distinctive contribution and the four original tunes are all credited as whole-band compositions. Baker adds fat and funky chords to the intro of "M'Njun" and underpins the unutterably cheerful "Voodoo Monkey" with a looser, more soulful set. Evans—an ex-covers band drummer who only discovered hip-hop at the age of 47—has a slinky, hip, style that reflects some of the hard-hitting grooves of his own inspiration, The Roots' Questlove. McMahon-Hore and Darbon both skillfully combine melody and rhythm, working with Evans to anchor every single tune.

The one cover track, "Stakes Is High > T. R. O. Y. (They Reminisce Over You)," is the band's tribute to J Dilla—who co-produced De La Soul's "Stakes Is High"—and Pete Rock, who produced "T. R. O. Y. (They Reminisce Over You)" and performed it with CL Smooth. Thelonius' arrangement, looser and a little more upbeat than the originals, does justice to both tunes.

Thelonius' most fascinating and attention-grabbing tune is the wonderful "Spanish Joint." It starts and ends with a piano and oboe duet from McMahon-Hore and Walker which is given a scratchy, eerie, sound as if being played on a 78RPM shellac disc. The duet's melancholy beauty is heightened by the song's Middle Eastern-flavored mid-section, which mixes Baker's fiery guitar, McMahon-Hore's fluid piano phrases and more of Walker's ethereal oboe.

Lest this should all seem too good to be true, there is a complaint to be made. Reminisce is just under 19 minutes long, an EP rather than LP. At a point in history when far too many artists attempt to stretch a few decent ideas out to 70 or 75 minutes, Thelonius stands guilty of doing the opposite. There are many, many possibilities hinted at here; this is a set of tunes that tantalizes and teases. Of course, being tantalized and teased isn't a bad thing. It's often a really good thing. So, not a complaint at all, really; just a request that next time it all lasts a bit longer.

Track Listing: M'Njun; Stakes Is High > T. R. O. Y. (They Reminisce Over You); Spanish Joint; The Lizard; Voodoo Monkey.

Personnel: Imogen Walker: oboe, saxophone; Tom McMahon-Hore: piano, electric piano; Tim Baker: guitars; Dan Darbon: electric bass; Richard Evans: drums, percussion.

Title: Reminisce | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced

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