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Joe "Guido" Welsh and Steve Million’s Moog tribute to Thelonious Sphere Monk is bound to get noticed for several reasons. First are probably the death threats that will come from the Stanley Grouches and Wynton Mainstreams of the jazz world. Second will be the protests over all the '70s synthesizers that were destroyed making this Monk tribute, which is worthy of full Esquival praise.
Actually Steve Million will probably be the first to be arrested. He is a fine acoustic pianist with a steady gig at Chicago’s Green Mill. In fact, Million is an excellent interpreter of Monk, having covered him on his releases for the Palmetto and Rhombus labels and as a semifinalist in the Thelonious Monk Piano Competition.
I suspect full blame will be on multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer and electric instrument collector Joe Welsh. It was his idea to assemble this record. Infidel!
Yes We Didn’t recalls the 1984 LP by producer Hal Wilner That's the Way I Feel Now, except Wilner choose 23 different bands (including NRBQ, John Zorn, Eugene Chadbourne, and Peter Frampton) to spin variations on Monk. Here, Million and Welsh maintain their adoration by way of (seemingly) every piece of vintage electronic instrumentation ever built.
That Japanese whistling synth heard on “I Mean You” has the familiar ring of the credits to Star Trek. Hmm, yes, and the Love Bug honking from “Bye-Ya,” with its Martin Denny swoosh lounges featuring the best exotica. The nudge here is the space age pop-i-ness. But this is also Thelonious-inspired music and “We See” gets fully realized, even if buzzers and electronic bombs are dropped in between the lines. Why not take “Misterioso” on as a spooky surf tune or play “Oska T” as Blue Oyster Cult meets Spike Jones? My favorite might be their monster movie take on “Evidence,” with heavy plodding machines chasing the theme.
It’s all good fun and no one has gotten hurt, except for Stanley Mainstream.
Track Listing: Off Minor; Bye-Ya; We See; Bemsha Swing; Ugly Beauty; I Mean You; Rhythm-A-Ning; Jackie-Ing;
Misterioso; Yes, We Didn
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.