Plays Monk – freejazz-stef.blogspot.comOne of the essential elements in great music is the enthusiasm of the musicians. If they’re not 100% behind what they’re playing, then why would you care as a listener? There are moments when musicians excell at bringing this enthusiasm with the material across very well, and this CD is an example in case. "Plays Monk" consists of Scott Amendola on drums, Ben Goldberg on clarinet and Devin Hoff on bass, and they bring ten pieces by Monk. And what these guys do, is absolutely fabulous : the rhythm section is re-creating the tunes all by themselves, hard-hitting and very creative and modern with Monk’s material, while Goldberg is trying to keep the original melodies intact, and lifting them even to unknown territory, his clarinet as fast as the right hand of the absent piano-player. Especially Amendola is fierce at times and Hoff’s bass is more often "running" rather than "walking ", because they turn the tempo a notch higher than on the originals. The band’s objective is to find the depth and breadth of Monk’s music and they do it well, "… always aiming for the distilled truth of the music”, as they say themselves. This is indeed music stripped to its barest essence : melody, harmony, rhythm and interplay. And the material is great, and the musicians are great. Pure joy, pure fun! What more do you want?Why does it seem that the bands without pianists seem to be producing the best current interpretations of Monk material?
Last year we had Ben Riley’s gem, and now, (Plays Monk) – this thought provoking beauty – features the unlikely amalgamation of drummer Scott Amendola mixing it up with clarinetist Ben Goldberg and bassist Devin Hoff.
Wisely, this trio doesn’t try to “recreate” the sound of Monk’s music; more often they take the melodies of these lesser known songs from the Monk canon and take them to the next idiosyncratic step. For instance, Goldberg’s mid and lower ranged foray on “Reflections” perfectly captures the ponderously pensive mood. Amendola and Hoff furtively create a bustled rhythm on “Little Rootie Tootie,” while Goldberg restrains the melody by playing restrained and held back loopy notes.
The tension between these two forces is joyfully palpable. The band is also able to reach the out layers of Monk’s cerebellum, as on the wild and wooly “Teo” and “Four In One.”Hoff’s bass work on the latter is a roller coaster ride in itself. The idea of taking off road excursions with Monk’s vehicle was a smart concept, and these guys do some remarkable ATVing with it.