COMPOSERS: Thelonious Monk
LABELS: Elektra Masters
PERFORMER: Sphere: Charlie Rouse (ts), Kenny Barron (p), Buster Williams (b), Ben Riley (d)
CATALOGUE NO: 7559-62601-2
Sphere emerged from what was the Kenny Barron Trio in 1981. Its repertoire included several Thelonious Monk tunes and with the addition of former Monk tenor saxophonist (Riley had also been a member of Monk’s group) it recorded its first album together on 17 February 1982. Four in One was intended as a tribute to Thelonious Monk, but unbeknown to the group at the time, Monk had just passed away.
Poignancy aside, this is a superbly realised album by players who had passed through the gateways of knowledge to reach strong, distinct musical voices of their own. During the Eighties (and Nineties), however, when recording companies specifically sought out the immature talents of young musicians who lacked a defining musical personality, jazz became increasingly bland. Just how bland is illustrated by the strength of improvisations from Barron and Rouse on ‘Evidence’ and ‘Eronel’, where the group collectively claims Monk’s music as its own.
Flight Path from 1983 is evidence of the musicians’ artistic growth, individually and collectively, and possesses a sharply defined group sound. Broadening their repertoire, ‘If I Should Lose You’ is a performance of stark and profound beauty with a timelessness that places it among the great recorded performances of jazz during the last 25 years. Stuart Nicholson