One thing you can say about Monk's Music Trio, the group performing on Monk On Mondays, a new album coming out soon from CMB Records — they don't make a secret of what they're all about. In case you haven't figured it out by now, they're proud to call themselves a Thelonious Monk repertory group.
The trio, which includes Chuck Bernstein on drums, Si Perkoff on piano, and bassist Sam Bevan, has performed on Mondays for almost a decade at San Francisco's Simple Pleasure Café. During that time they've generated several albums related to their mission in life, which is to pay tribute to Monk by playing – and sometimes reinterpreting – his music.
Monk is one of the legendary figures in jazz, and his many fans can decide for themselves how they feel about tribute groups. Since there are plenty of Monk recordings around, fans can choose to just listen to the real thing, or they can give a group like this a chance. Their names might not be familiar, but truth be told, they're veteran musicians with plenty of ability, and there's something to be said for artists who devote themselves to a singular body of music.
On this particular album, they've assembled a collection that includes some well-known Monk numbers, such as "Straight No Chaser" and "Evidence," along with some more obscure pieces, including "Brake's Sake" and "Locomotive." The trio plays them all pretty straight, although they do have some personal touches showing through here and there.
Some of the cuts I especially enjoyed include "Bye-Ya," which is a Latin-flavored tune that works well with Bernstein's inventive drum-work feeding the mood and Perkoff's piano play continuing the rhythm. On the softer side of things is the group's interpretation of "Ruby My Dear," a ballad that was special to Monk because Ruby was his first love.
I also enjoyed the softly bluesy "Something In Blue," which features some dark play from Perkoff matched by Bevan's brooding bass, and "Hornin' In," a piece that normally requires – well – a horn, but the trio does a good job improvising around that.
A good collection, performed by some skillful pros.
1 Let's Call This
3 Brake's Sake
4 Ruby My Dear
7 Well You Needn't
8 Something In Blue
9 Hornin' In
10 Green Chimneys
11 Light Blue
12 Criss Cross
13 Straight No Chaser