Peter Bernstein

Monk

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Monk, Peter Bernstein's seventh album, is also his first in four and a half years, following Stranger in Paradise, which was released in Japan. It's being issued by the newly reactivated Xanadu label, which has come back into existence mainly to reissue previous albums, and this one, although a current recording, also has the air of a retrospective. As its title suggests, it's a tribute to Thelonious Monk, employing all Monk compositions. The tribute album is a typical strategy to boost sales in jazz, of course, but the twist here is that Bernstein is a guitarist while Monk was a pianist, and in this case the only additional musicians are bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Bill Stewart. A pianoless trio playing Monk tunes obviously requires some adjustments, and in some cases Bernstein has effected approximations of Monk's themes rather than strict transpositions. Some notes may be harder to get to quickly enough on the guitar, and then the notes decay faster, as well. One curious effect of the changed instrumentation is that Monk's music actually sounds less unusual on the guitar than it does on the piano. Even when, as on "Work," Bernstein takes off into some odd soloing, somehow the guitar makes the music sound more conventional. Bernstein is at his most impressive when he only uses Monk for a template and, especially, when he dispenses with the rhythm section, as he does on "Monk's Mood" and "Ruby, My Dear," not to mention on "Reflections," in which, through the magic of overdubbing, he accompanies himself.

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