Saturday, December 1, 2018

Frank Kimbrough - Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk (SUNNYSIDE RECORDS 2018)

The genius of pianist and composer Thelonious Monk is unassailable. Since his death in 1982, he has become recognized as one of the greatest composers of jazz – and of the wider world of music. The year 2017 was the centennial of Monk’s birth, and brought scores of tributes, including a well-received stay of pianist Frank Kimbrough’s quartet at the Jazz Standard club in New York City. 

Like many jazz pianists, Kimbrough found Monk’s music a revelation when he first heard it. From the outset of his career, Kimbrough has returned time and again to Monk’s compositions. After nearly four decades of study, reflection, and performance, Kimbrough has established a relationship with these pieces and found a way to express himself through the prism of Monk. 

When the Standard approached Kimbrough to put together a quartet to play Monk’s music, he picked the brilliant rhythm section of bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Billy Drummond. His choice for lead horn voice was the multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, with whom he has played for many years and in many combinations, most notably with the Maria Schneider Orchestra. 

After the first set of the October 17th, 2017 performance at the Standard Kimbrough’s friend Mait Jones urged that the group record Monk’s entire oeuvre, a feat that Kimbrough had never considered. A jazz fan and co-presenter of his own Princeton series JazzNights Jones began a lifelong appreciation of Monk when he heard the master live at the Five Spot in New York City in 1957. 

Over the next few days, Jones doubled down on his intent to make the project reach fruition, bringing in his friend and fellow jazz head, Dr. Dorothy Lieberman, to help co-produce the effort. 

The musicians began the intensive work such a project demands. Finally, in April of 2018 Kimbrough led a trio and then the quartet at Jazz at the Kitano, polishing 30 new tunes on the way to the full Monk catalog of 70 pieces. 

For the recording, Matt Balitsaris provided his renowned Maggie’s Farm studios and an optimistic plan of recording a disc’s worth of material each day for six days. The musicians recorded each day from 11 to 5 or 6 in two three-day intervals broken up by a three-day respite. Miraculously this ambitious plan succeeded, with most tunes needing only one or two takes. Robinson picked his axe of choice on the spot, from the standard (tenor sax and trumpet) to the exotic (bass saxophone, echo cornet, bass clarinet, and contrabass sarrusophone). The resultant tracks are fresh, varied, and inspired. 

Highlights of the group’s takes on these classic pieces include Robinson’s juggling of trumpet and tenor sax on “Thelonious” and the ensemble’s free-wheeling energy on “Skippy.” “Locomotive” is the picture of peaceful beauty, whereas “Jackie-ing” is all jumps and starts. Reid and Robinson play beautifully on “Reflections” and a lovely solo performance of “Crepuscule with Nellie” showcases Kimbrough’s command of the piano and Monk’s language. 

The recordings form a fantastically diverse collection. On the six-CD set, titled Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk, Monk’s compositions are played in various configurations, most by the quartet, but others in smaller combinations, even solo piano. The package also includes beautifully penned liner notes from Nate Chinen (New York Times, WBGO and NPR) along with notes from members of the ensemble and the producers of the album. 

1. Thelonious 04:51
2. Light Blue 06:15
3. Played Twice 04:41
4. Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are 05:00
5. Ask Me Now 05:31
6. Humph 04:36
7. Bright Mississippi 05:50
8. Reflections 05:02
9. Bemsha Swing 04:41
10. Teo 06:02
11. Blue Sphere 04:22
12. Crepescule with Nellie 02:28
13. Think of One 04:28
14. 52nd Street Theme 02:24
15. Eronel 05:23
16. Bluehawk 05:30
17. Little Rootie Tootie 06:07
18. Two Timer 03:17
19. Ruby, My Dear 04:39
20. Boo Boo's Birthday 05:11
21. San Francisco Holiday 05:12
22. Functional 04:24
23. I Mean You 05:05
24. Shuffle Boil 05:42
25. Monk's Dream 05:53
26. Evidence 05:31
27. Misterioso 03:54
28. Four In One 06:00
29. Brake's Sake 05:22
30. Pannonica 04:17
31. Bye Ya 04:28
32. North of the Sunset 02:45
33. Introspection 03:59
34. Wee See 04:49
35. In Walked Bud 04:10
36. Nutty 06:45
37. Trinkle Tinkle 04:35
38. Blues Five Spot 05:09
39. 'Round Midnight 05:23
40. Jackie-ing 02:40
41. Well You Needn't 05:40
42. Sixteen 04:03
43. Locomotive 04:37
44. Gallop's Gallop 04:13
45. Children's Song 04:47
46. Blue Monk 06:44
47. Friday the 13th 05:18
48. Criss Cross 04:17
49. Raise Four 03:35
50. Let's Call This 05:07
51. Who Knows 03:56
52. A Merrier Christmas 03:40
53. Stuffy Turkey 05:19
54. Monk's Point 03:27
55. Work 03:23
56. Brilliant Corners 06:44
57. Off Minor 03:46
58. Hackensack 05:27
59. Oska T 03:18
60. Let's Cool One 05:57
61. Hornin' In 04:24
62. Coming On The Hudson 03:46
63. Straight No Chaser 04:46
64. Monk's Mood 05:09
65. Green Chimneys 03:28
66. Rhythm-A-Ning 05:36
67. Ugly Beauty 04:32
68. Skippy 03:41
69. Something In Blue 04:43
70. Epistrophy 04:25