It is ironic that it took an Italian arranger by the name of Riccardo Brazzale, using a top-flight Italian jazz orchestra, to produce such a fine big-band tribute to American composer Thelonious Monk. Occasionally others, of course, such as T.S. Monk, have successfully engaged in big-band tributes, but this one, Monk at Town Hall & More, is distinguished by its use of transcriptions from Hall Overton's arrangements from the classic 1959 Town Hall concert that were reinterpreted by Brazzale. The tentet organized by Brazzale includes some of Italy's best musicians, with Pietro Tonolo on soprano sax and Roberto Rossi on trombone, while trumpeter Kyle Gregory adds some tasty solos on trumpet. In addition to tunes by Thelonious Monk, the band adds a loving version of "Abide With Me" (featuring Tonolo, who unfortunately suffers from slight problems with intonation), and a short piece by Brazzale entitled "Additional C. Q. Six." Highlights include some impressive soloing by pianist Paolo Birro, who plays the Monk role smartly by not aping him; and a lyrical Rossi, who is heard on several tracks to good advantage. Although the new arrangements are an exciting concept, Brazzale is somewhat too respectful; he might have opted occasionally to pursue different avenues while remaining true to Monk's spirit. While the results are almost always of superior quality and many of the solos are first-rate, the talented Brazzale takes his cue directly from the 1959 set, resulting in uniformly high standards but lacking on occasion the high-spirited sense of wonder that infused Monk's music.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Loewy