Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

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

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

New York Beat
Multiple Reviews
Bailey's Bundles
CD/LP/Track Review
Megaphone
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
 

The Adventurous Monk

Challenge Jazz
2014

buy
Groovewise

Groovewise

Smoke Sessions
2014

buy
Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful

WJ3 Records
2011

buy
The Dancing Monk

The Dancing Monk

Savant Records
2011

buy
Stand!

Stand!

WJ3 Records
2009

buy
Here

Here

MAXJAZZ
2006

buy

Related Articles

Read Drum Solos For Dancers Only CD/LP/Track Review
Drum Solos For Dancers Only
by David A. Orthmann
Published: December 18, 2018
Read Kikoeru - Tribute to Masaya Kimura CD/LP/Track Review
Kikoeru - Tribute to Masaya Kimura
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 18, 2018
Read His Flight's At Ten CD/LP/Track Review
His Flight's At Ten
by John Sharpe
Published: December 18, 2018
Read First Lines CD/LP/Track Review
First Lines
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: December 18, 2018
Read Live At Cafe Amores CD/LP/Track Review
Live At Cafe Amores
by John Sharpe
Published: December 18, 2018
Read The Tale CD/LP/Track Review
The Tale
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 17, 2018
Read "In The Spirit Of Rashied Ali" CD/LP/Track Review In The Spirit Of Rashied Ali
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 6, 2018
Read "The Ing..." CD/LP/Track Review The Ing...
by Geannine Reid
Published: November 8, 2018
Read "Rasif" CD/LP/Track Review Rasif
by Mark Sullivan
Published: November 26, 2018
Read "In Stride" CD/LP/Track Review In Stride
by Barry O'Sullivan
Published: January 29, 2018
Read "Tenderness is Silent" CD/LP/Track Review Tenderness is Silent
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 29, 2018
Read "4" CD/LP/Track Review 4
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 27, 2018