There's something almost contradictory about Monk compositions: they're insistently individualistic, built on odd chord changes with often minimalist melodies. But as idiosyncratic as they are, they often succeed in bringing out what's best in the musicians playing them, as if those tunes are open to individuality as well as being the product of it. Through the years musicians of wildly divergent styles have approached Monk's music: the piquant Steve Lacy, exuberant Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, amiably bombastic Misha Mengelberg and magisterial Coleman Hawkins. These two trips into the Monk canon may not produce results as distinctive as any of those but they're solid efforts possessed of substantial personality.
Guitarist Bobby Broom is likely best known for his supporting role in the band of Sonny Rollins, a direct link to Monk's most creative years. There's a lot of blues in Broom's approachhe's led an organ trioand it deliberately picks up on the iconography of Monk's Riverside years. The cover art features a red wagon, recalling the cover art of Monk's Music, but more than that there's the style. Broom's bluesy, linear approach to Monk inevitably suggests another generation of guitarists like Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. There's also a real emphasis on swing. Broom's spare trio with bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Kobie Watkins goes to the rhythmic core of Monk's music, producing effervescent momentum on tunes like "Evidence," "In Walked Bud," "Rhythm-a-ning" and "Bemsha Swing" and warm balladry on "Ruby, My Dear" and "Smoke Gets in your Eyes". That easy swing may suggest the relaxed confidence of Monk's Columbia years as well, but Broom has done a fine job of adapting Monk's music to his own musical personality and vice versa.
The duo of saxophonist Jimmy Halperin and bassist Dominic Duval let you know right away what side of Monk they're most interested in, opening and closing with "Brilliant Corners," perhaps the most 'angular' and abrasive of Monk's compositions. Halperin and Duval take it in stridewell, make that tense stride. Halperin really leans into this music, creating swirling patterns on "Off Minor," "Blue Monk" and "Monk's Dream" that gives them a very different feel from the usual accounts. Duval provides solid support, articulating the themes with characteristic ease. The duo enjoys consistent communication, creating a fine three-way dialogue with Monk's compositions. Halperin's exploratory edge is evident throughout. The duo released a similar CD of Monk tunes a couple of years ago, called Monkinus, on CIMP. Monk Dreams isn't a sequel. It was actually recorded earlier and includes many of the same tunes. It's a good date, however, interesting in itself as well as a complement to the later recording.
Tracks and Personnel
Plays for Monk
Tracks: Ask Me Now; Evidence; Ruby, My Dear; In Walked Bud; Lulu's Back In Town; Reflections; Work; Rhythm-A-Ning; Bemsha Swing; Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.
Personnel: Bobby Broom: guitar; Dennis Carroll: bass; Kobie Watkins: drums.
Tracks: Brilliant Corners: Off Minor; Epistrophy; Monk's Dream: Trinkle, Tinkle; Evidence; Bye-Ya; Criss Cross; Blue Monk; Ruby, My Dear; Brilliant Corners (alternate track).
Personnel: Jimmy Halperin: tenor saxophone; Dominic Duval: bass.