"Think Of One"
"Monk's Music Trio"
"Think Of One", the second cd by the "Monk's Music Trio"--the follow up to the group's critically acclaimed debut disc "Harmony Of Odd Numbers"--continues the band's sonic exploration of the music of Thelonious Monk, reaffirmining the pianist's place as one of America's greatest composers. The San Francisco based trio, comprised of drummer/leader Chuck Bernstein, pianist/musical director Si Perkoff, and recent edition bassist Sam Bevan, presents thirteen new interpretations of Monk compostiions, ranging from his best known songs to some of the most obscure. The readings of these uniquely swinging classics by the "Monk's Music Trio" are simultaneously fresh and faithful; avant garde and traditional; modern and timeless.
The opening "San Francisco Holiday" (subtitled "Worry Later") pays homage to both Monk and the city that is Bernstein's birthplace and the band's home. First recorded at the Black Hawk in 1960, the staccato, note-filled melody is one of Monk's busier lines and Perkoff attacks it with suitable verve without losing sight of the composer's laid back concept of tempo. Bevan lays down a sure-footed walking bass line and contributes a solid solo. Bernstein provides Monkish flavor with his oblique drum accents and a melodic notion of rhythm in both his accompaniment and four bar exchanges with Perkoff.
"Coming On The Hudson" is one of Monk's lesser-known pieces, initially performed by his quartet with Johnny Griffin at the Five Spot in 1958. Since then it has been reprised by Griffin and Sonny Fortune and has also been favored by Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd, two of the composer's more adventurous devotees. Perkoff's performance here demonstrates Monk's strong influence on his tonality and two-handed technique (which is utilized to great affect in call and response passages), but also reveals great individualism in his improvising. Bevan has another fine feature and Bernstein again interpolates five bar drum exchanges with Perkoff into a spirited arrangement that sustains the piece's unique rhythmic character.
Monk's beautiful ballad "Ask Me Now",one of his earliest compositions (first recored on "Genius of Modern Music" for Blue Note in 1951), was inexplicably neglected during the pianist's lifetime (only clarinetist Pee Wee Russel recorded it). Based on the pop song "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend", Monk continued to perform it throughout his career, but it wasn't until after his death that it became a staple for other pianists--including Muhal Richard Abrams, Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Walter Davis, Eric Reed, George Shearing and McCoy Tyner. This trio's arrangement, featuring Perkoff's sensitive interpretation of the melancholy melody and Bevan's beautiful bass solo, buoyed by Bernstein's brushes is among the best.
"Four In One", one of Monk's swinging straight ahead numbers, is heard in a suitably vigorous version. Perkoff's opening statement again reveals his uncanny ability to duplicate Monk's idiosyncratic sound before he heads into his own personal territory. Bernstein is particularly effective here, demonstrating a melodious concept that inspires Perkoff to build his own staements off the drummer's melodic rhythms.
The titlie track, one of Monk's greatest records (an all-star 1956 Riverside date featuring Sonny Rollins, Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach), "Brilliant Corners" is one of the pianist's most distinctive melodies. The trio advances aggressively on the difficult line, maneuvering through the convoluted chord changes and intricate shifts in tempo flawlessly.
"Think Of One", the title track of this date, begins with a terse drum introduction featuring Bernstein's brushes. Bevan's walking bass provides a solid foundation upon which Perkoff builds another one of his outstanding solos, alternating fluid runs and percussive punctuations. The bassist's "singing" solo and Bernstein's drum song are equally impressive.
Bevan begins "Pannonica" with a solitary bass reading of the beautiful ballad dedicated by Monk to his lifelong patroness, the Baroness Pannnonica de Koenigswater. Perkoff's solo is sensitive, but never sappy. Bernstein's brush and sock cymbal accompaniment is a model of mellow maturity.
"Trinkle Tinkle" was one of Monk's own favorite compositions, judging by the frequency of his recreation of this masterpiece, from his earliest Blue Note sessions to his final Black Lion dates. The trio's performance here swings all the way through, with Perkoff's accurate rendering of the elaborate melody, Bevan's brawny bass and Bernstein's exhilarating four bar exchanges each contributing to the piece's considerable success.
Monk's "Misterioso" is one of the pianist's most intriguing composition's. A paradigm of childlike simplicity, the memorable melody built on minamalist ascending chord progression, impeccably executed by Perkoff, has become a powerful springboard for the blues. Bevan and Bernstein's bass and brushes duet add a nice touch to the tune.
"Two Timer" is a newly discovered Monk composition first documented by them pianist's drummer son T.S. on the 1997 cd "Monk on Monk". This is only the second time the piece has been recorded.
"Stuffy Turkey" is another rarity from the Monk songbook; first recorded by the composer in 1964 on the album "It's Monk's Time", it remained unnoticed until recent recordings by Arthur Blythe and Papo Vasquez. "Monk's Music Trio" should do much to bring the straight-ahead song into voque.
Written for Monk's daughter Barbara, "Boo Boo's Birthday" is a seldom played piece (from the classic "Underground" record) that has been recently resurrected as part of the repertoire of Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet, a piano-less group led by Monk's long-time drummer. The trio's version here spotlights the strengths of the group's individual members.
The disc ends appropriately with "Rhythm-A-Ning, the Monk composition that is most frequently employed as a set closer on live performances these days. The trio swings mightily on this one with Perkoff showing off the facility from his years of experience as house pianist at Jimbo's Bop City. Bernstein's drum solo is actually in two parts. He first takes a chorus of solo over Bevan's walking bass, following that is a theme and variation drum composition, "This One's For Shelly" written by the drummer to commemorate his friendship with the great drummer Shelly Manne who was a profound musical influence.
The legacy of Thelonious Monk is one of the greatest of all composers in American music. As "Monk's Music Trio", Bernstein, Perkoff, and Bevan highlight the magnitude of the pianist's contribution to this country's greatest art form, while showcasing their own substantial talents The band's first two discs pay homage to the majesty of Monk's music and to his dictum to follow your own musical heart. With a large number of compositions in the pianist's musical cannon still ripe for interpretation, we can look forward to a fruitful furthering the traditionfrom this excellent ensemble.