55

Jimmy Owens: The Monk Project

Hrayr Attarian By

Sign in to view read count
Jimmy Owens: The Monk Project
Who better to pay homage to one of the musical geniuses of the 20th century than seven of today's most idiosyncratic artists? The septet is lead by Jimmy Owens, who is known for his versatility in settings as diverse as swing bands and avant-garde ensembles; most notably, for this undertaking, he organized a concert of Thelonious Monk music at Carnegie Hall in 1974 that featured the legendary pianist himself.

Although The Monk Project features nine of the master's compositions, they are not slavishly reproduced but they serve as inspiration for Owens' loose interpretation. On "Well You Needn't," for example, Owens' muted trumpet introduces the theme in a more lush and fluid style than the original recording, but soon his edgy, free flowing solo follows on the heels of Kenny Barron's angular and dissonant piano flourishes.

Barron, who led Sphere (named after and dedicated to Monk's music) in the 1980s, is much at home with Monk's work, as heard on "Blue Monk," where his keys drip with the deepest of blues—like a barrelhouse pianist, but with a modern and unique bite worthy of the record's honoree. This smoky quality is enhanced by saxophonist Marcus Strickland's gutbucket tenor.

Strickland is also adept at advanced improvisations. On "Let's Cool It," his expansive sound, full of vibrato, is quite stimulating and sets the stage for Owens' own contemplative trumpet explorations. The two carry on an interesting conversation on "Bright Mississippi," which is transformed into a progressive trad-jazz tune (if such a thing existed), covering a wide swatch of jazz history. Howard Johnson's raggedy tuba contributes to this unique atmosphere.

Johnson switches to baritone sax as he punctuates Owens,' meandering and emotive trumpet lines on the languid "Pannonica" and on the intelligently reconstructed "Epistrophy," where he builds crisp and logical series of notes. The star of this, the centerpiece of the album (although it is the last track), is Wycliffe Gordon whose growling trombone embarks on, perhaps the most adventurous of extemporizations, simultaneously earthy and ethereal.

Granted, this disc is not for those who seek to listen to Monk's music as he played it. It is, however, a supremely rewarding experience for those who like to hear the impact he still has, thirty years after his death.

Track Listing

Bright Mississippi; Well You Needn't; Blue Monk; Stuffy Turkey; Pannonica; Let's Cool One; It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing); Brilliant Corners; Reflections; Epistrophy.

Personnel

Jimmy Owens: trumpet, flugelhorn; Wycliffe Gordon: trombone; Marcus Strickland: tenor saxophone; Howard Johnson: tuba, baritone saxophone; Kenny Barron: piano: Kenny Davis: bass; Winard Harper: drums.

Album information

Title: The Monk Project | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: IPO Recordings

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Music Room 1985
Wayne Krantz
Tumaini
Berta Moreno Afro-Jazz Soul Project
Stories
Roni Ben-Hur
Prometheus
Nikol Bókóva
Thunda
Noah Preminger
Squint
Julian Lage
Mayan Space Station
William Parker

Popular

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.