Reed meets Monk for jazz
Thelonious Monk’s piano style and compositions are nearly inseparable. This poses a dilemma for the jazz pianist performing his compositions: Do you appropriate the late Monk’s percussive, angular, astringent keyboard style or do you take off on your own, playing his “Straight, No Chaser” the way you would any other jazz standard? With Monk (who was born in Rocky Mount in 1917) the composition should direct the improvisation, it seems, more so than with any other jazz composer. Call it the magnetism of Monk.
Throughout “The Adventurous Monk,” pianist Eric Reed’s third Monk-related album, we get a near-perfect integration of Monk-isms and Reed-isms. With bassist Ben Williams and drummer Gregory Hutchinson in support, there are big-foot walking bass lines and soulful drum patterns and drum solos to be heard, too. The prodigious tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake is aboard on several tracks, and Charenee Wade provides the album’s lone vocal, on “Ruby, My Dear.”
Along with the melodic angles, catchy rhythms and ugly beauty (to borrow one of Monk’s titles) of Monk’s compositions and piano sound, Reed integrates a gospel feeling (his father was a preacher), bebop phrasing, the blistering runs of pianist Art Tatum and, occasionally, the harmonic richness of Bill Evans into these performances. The ballad “Pannonica” is an example, but more straight-ahead performances such as “Work,” “Evidence” and “Ba-lues Bolivar Ba-lues-Are” are just as rich.
Corespondent Owen Cordle