The Fourth Annual Thelonious Monk Festival @ Jazz at Lincoln Center - New York City Article
The Fourth Annual Thelonious Monk Festival @ Jazz at Lincoln Center Follow @nyccitiview
The Fourth Annual Thelonious Monk Festival
Jazz at Lincoln Center (all three venues)
Broadway at 60th Street
Thursday October 25 to & Sunday October 28
“Thelonious Monk,” in the words of Dexter Gordon, “was not exactly the boy next door.” It’s said that, in all the arts, the avant-garde eventually becomes the establishment. But even so it’s both surprising and heartening to know that the pianist-composer-bandleader who, for most of his life, served as a textbook definition of a jazz outsider, is now regularly honored by the institution that has established itself as the absolute epicenter of the jazz world. Monk’s quirky, brilliant, “nutty” music - in which rhythm and melody are, in a funny way, ultimately the same thing, will serve as the basis for three very different sets of interpretations by three very different ensembles in each of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s three sub-spaces.
In the main hall, Rose Theater, the big orchestra presents its latest program of new large-scale interpretations of Monk tunes. As is the JALCO’s tradition, most of the arrangements will be newly written by members of the orchestra. This time out, however, there will also be new charts from three young newcomers, including Joe Block and Matt Wong (both winners of JALC’s student band competition, Essentially Ellington) and Esteban Castro, a “pre-college” student at the Manhattan School of Music, who is all of 15 years old. (I wonder if he knows Joey Alexander? Or Anais Reno?)
Meanwhile, the young bass virtuoso Russell Hall, who in the last year or so has become a leading poster boy for JALC, has masterminded a highly personal and idiosyncratic celebration of the legendary Thelonious, titled “Monk’s Dream,” on Friday and Saturday at the Appel Room. Because Monk’s music is so remarkably percussive, the program will feature four different drummers (Jeff “Tain” Watts, Kyle Poole, Savannah Harris, Evan Sherman and vibraphonist Joel Ross), as well as two trumpeters (Bruce Harris and Mark Kavuma), and many members of the Michael Mwenso collective that made such a hit at the most recent New York Hot Jazz Festival: pianist Mathis Picard, saxophonists Ruben Fox and Julian Lee, guitarist Gabe Schnider, dancer Michela Marino Lerman, and the remarkable South African singer Vuyo Sotashe. The star of the evening, however, is a venerated Jazz Master and contemporary of Monk himself, the legendary piano giant Barry Harris.
The abundance of keyboards this weekend is no coincidence: the third act is the Mike LeDonne Trio at Dizzy’s, spotlighting the veteran bebopper (a regular at Smoke and elsewhere) on both piano and organ, with two rhythm colossi, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash. What would Monk himself say about all this activity and attention? Something quixotic, brilliant, and self-deflating, I have no doubt.
photo: William Gottlieb
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)