Bill Holman's exploration of ten Thelonious Monk tunes is purposely a lot more Holman than Monk. Rather than trying to re-create the great pianist/composer's piano solos or small-group renditions of his songs, Holman picked out numbers that interested him and then avoided listening to Thelonious' versions. The one trait of Thelonious Monk's that is present throughout these dynamic big-band reinterpretations is the dominance of the themes, which are never far away; otherwise, the music is pure Bill Holman. The charts are sometimes (like Bob Brookmeyer's) influenced by modern classical music; the ensembles are often quite dense, with numerous different activities going on at once -- a well-planned traffic jam. Many soloists are heard from, including all five saxophonists (with Perkins on alto and soprano and tenor great Christlieb making the strongest impressions), trumpeters Bob Summers and Ron Stout, and trombonists Andy Martin and Bob Enevoldsen. The individual improvisations are generally backed by complex ensembles and end up very much a part of the arrangements. The overall results (which include such highlights as "Straight No Chaser," "Thelonious," "Friday the 13th," and "Brilliant Corners") end up giving listeners a very different look at the music of Thelonious Monk, and are on the whole a major milestone in the career of Bill Holman.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow