Beyond Category

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Duke Ellington,Thelonious Monk
LABELS: Wondrous
WORKS: jazz
PERFORMER: Howard Riley (p)


This is Howard Riley’s thirteenth solo album – unlike all the others, it contains no original compositions but robust yet sensitive interpretations of works by Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington; ‘beyond category’ was the latter’s laudatory term for musical excellence.

Although Riley is indisputably one of the most technically gifted pianists in the music, the perceived austerity and apparent formal complexity of his work have militated against ready public acceptance. The relative familiarity of material like ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’, ‘Well You Needn’t’ and ‘Round Midnight’ could well change that: Beyond Category, packed with subtle insight and delightfully terse wit, all delivered with almost rapturous verve, somehow contrives to be simultaneously instantly recognisable as Riley and scrupulously true to the spirit of its composers.


Given exposure, it could at last bring the UK pianist the widespread acclaim his work has so long deserved. Chris Parker