Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

357

Eric Reed: The Dancing Monk

Greg Simmons By

Sign in to view read count
Every jazz pianist stands somewhere in the shadow of Thelonious Monk (1917-1982), and Eric Reed has embraced that shadow, with The Dancing Monk.

Interpreting the near-mythic pianist/composer's music—let alone making an entire album of his tunes—poses significant challenges to any modern musician, and especially for a pianist. First, Monk's compositions are, indeed, challenging, in and of themselves; full of odd meters, syncopations, and some of the most counter-intuitive melodies ever written. Second, Monk's flat-fingered keyboard work was completely unique and uniquely intertwined with his music. His piano playing was an integral part of those songs and very much one of the major components of his greatness. It is difficult to imagine one without the other.

Therein rests the conundrum. A modern pianist interpreting this music is faced with the daunting task of separating Monk's music from his piano playing, retaining the compositions, and then bringing something new to the party. The alternative is to risk simply making an analogue copy of performances that are now between forty and sixty years old. It takes real sensitivity to play this music in a fashion that retains what is great about the compositions, without butchering the performance with incongruous pianism. Of course, it is likely this exact challenge that keeps musicians regularly attempting this musical feat, with widely varying degrees of success.

Happily, The Dancing Monk is largely successful. Reed is a technically gifted player—which can be dangerous when over-employed on Monk's odd compositions—but he manages to compliment the songs with performances that are sensitive to the material as well as being beautifully played. On "Eronel," he plays subtly rubato, adding a very Monk-like quality to the performance without directly imitating the source—a very nice touch. "Light Blue," finds the piano in the background for a time, comping the melody as stated ably by bassist Ben Wolfe, before reemerging to take a smooth, flowing workout. On, "Ugly Beauty," drummer McClenty Hunter adds a very subtle Latin overtone, leaving the framework of the original intact, but adding a completely new flavor.

Reed contributes exactly one original to the date, the title track, where, ironically, he most closely imitates Monk's playing style. It would be highly believable if presented as a long-lost Monk original but, as-is, it is a well-crafted homage to a genius. In the end, The Dancing Monk works because it takes a canon of unique and highly identifiable music and compliments it rather than trying to completely rework it. In the process, Reed has managed to make these songs sound fresh and interesting, and that might be the highest compliment that can be given to an entire album dedicated to the compositions of someone as singular as Thelonious Monk.

Track Listing: Ask Me Now; Eronel; Reflections; Light Blue; Ruby, My Dear; Pannonica; Ugly Beauty; The Dancing Monk; 'Round Midnight; Blue Monk.

Personnel: Eric Reed: piano; Ben Wolfe: bass; McClenty Hunter: drums.

Title: The Dancing Monk | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Savant Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Bound CD/LP/Track Review Not Bound
by Don Phipps
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House CD/LP/Track Review Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Journey to a New World CD/LP/Track Review Journey to a New World
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 21, 2018
Read "It's A Mystery" CD/LP/Track Review It's A Mystery
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 31, 2017
Read "Vertical" CD/LP/Track Review Vertical
by Don Phipps
Published: January 16, 2018
Read "Retrorespective" CD/LP/Track Review Retrorespective
by Phillip Woolever
Published: June 15, 2017
Read "Straight Ahead From Havana" CD/LP/Track Review Straight Ahead From Havana
by James Nadal
Published: June 6, 2017
Read "Syzygy" CD/LP/Track Review Syzygy
by Paul Rauch
Published: March 6, 2017
Read "All Smiles" CD/LP/Track Review All Smiles
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 31, 2017