WORKS: Monk on Monk
PERFORMER: Thelonious Monk Jr (d); Don Sickler (t); Bobby Porcelli (as); Willie Williams (ss, ts), etc
CATALOGUE NO: 10017 (distr. New Note)
The Thelonious Monk Jr Sextet was formed in 1991, and immediately impressed. Instead of retreating into hard bop, the band moved forward within the idiom, sparked by Monk’s electric drumming, Don Sickler’s imaginative, state-of-the-art arrangements and exemplary solo and ensemble work. Everyone made every note count in a way that the gratuitous virtuosity so common in jazz today does not.
Each of Monk’s Nineties output for the Blue Note label reflected the high standards the band set for itself in ensemble execution and individual expression: Take One (1991), Changing of the Guard (1993) and The Charm (1995). Now, with an augmented group and on a new label, Monk Jr embarks on an exploration of his late father’s classic compositions. There’s a contagious brio and a sympathy for the compositions that sets this album apart from the legion of Monk tributes.
Monk Jr is even confident enough to take poetic licence and have Kevin Mahogany sing a memorable ‘Ruby My Dear’. This album, like his previous ones, crackles and pops with energy and invention. Perhaps surprisingly, things are not diffused by the coming and going of an impressive guest list who perform with five-sixths of the sextet line-up. They’ve remained unaltered since 1991 and must now number among the finest regular ensembles in jazz today. Stuart Nicholson