Seventy years ago, nobody was playing pianist Thelonious Monk
's music, except Monk. One of the originators of bebop, along with Dizzy Gillespie
; Charlie Parker
, and Bud Powell
, he created his own language. As the 1940s turned into the 50s, Monk's music developed its own distinctive parlance.
The earliest interpreter of Monk, maybe a better word is exponent, was soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy
. Lacy, after a stint in the pianist's ensemble, took it upon himself to spread the Monk sound in the band School Days with Roswell Rudd
, but primarily in solo context. It wasn't until after Monk died in 1982 that the tributes and covers of his music started to proliferate. There are big band tributes by Lincoln City Jazz, covers by rock bands, and Moog synthesizer ensembles, trumpeters, saxophonists, and of course solo piano recordings.
How does one evaluate yet another Monk cover album? Perhaps by his own words, "I say, play your own way. Don't play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you're doing, even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years."
It doesn't take years to acknowledge what the guitar trio Monkbeatz associates with in the music of Monk. They see the history of jazz, actually all popular musics, that have blossomed since Monk's passing. Maybe not for a traditionalist's ear, the surf beat that powers "Bye Ya" engages the gluteus while guitarist Ursus Bachthaler opens his book of electric tap and slide. Their music is at first unbalancing, but the core of Monk is always preserved. Even on "Epistrophy" where they employ a Bill Laswell
throbbing bass line that offsets Benny Lackner's piano, and Bachthaler guitar that harkens back to an early John Scofield
sound. Their take hits and only rarely misses. The title track is a dreamy slice of progressive music, and "Ask Me Now" is their throwback to stride piano via guitar and keyboards. The one miscue is a disco version of "Blue Monk." One throwaway track from a set of unique covers.
Ugly Beauty; Epistrophy; Bye-Ya; Ask Me Now; Wee See; Blue Monk.
Ursus Bachthaler: guitar, effects; Benny Lackner: Wurlitzer piano, piano, synth-
bass; Rainer Winch: Drums, Moog bass.