"Thelonious Monk’s knotty little compositions are as easy to recognize as they are tricky to navigate. The appropriately named Monk’s Playground approaches these idiosyncratic constructs as an opportunity for swinging, sliding, spinning, gymnastic musical fun." (Peter McElhinney, Style Weekly)
Guitarist Chris Vasi has long been enchanted by the music of Thelonious Monk. (He is not alone in this.)
After spending time working up solo-guitar arrangements, ideas for an ensemble began to blossom. By sometimes altering the melody or the timing, or
re-interpreting the songs through different harmonic and rhythmic modifications, the songs were transformed and re-imagined. The use of electric guitar, instead of piano, also takes the music in a new direction.
Vasi is joined by saxophonists Lou Hoff and Jonathan Gibson, drummer Forrest Young, and bassist Jonathan Wheelock for this enjoyable collection of new arrangements of Monk tunes, as well as the over-100-year-old melody Kojo No Tsuki (Monk recorded it as "Japanese Folk Song") and the group-improvised abstraction "Almost Didn't".
This album serves as a veneration, with gratitude for one of American music's greatest geniuses. It's also a ton of fun.