David Mengual

Monkiana: Tribute to Thelonious Monk

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Bassist David Mengual's ballsy tribute to Thelonious Monk is quite remarkable in that there are no easy marks on the arrangements, no Monk clich├ęs in the reharmonization of the tunes, and the set is performed without a pianist. With classics like "Bye-Ya," "Brilliant Corners," "Ruby, My Dear," "Straight, No Chaser," "In Walked Bud," and "Bemsha Swing" in the mix -- all of which have been murdered by countless jazzmen attempting to realize Monk's genius -- are more obscure gems like "Boo Boo's Birthday," "Trinckle Trinckle," and "Ask Me Now." What makes the set work so well is Mengual's iron hand on the proceedings. He conducts like Mingus from the bass chair and allows nothing to slip past his ear. He controls tensions, tempos, and intervals. His radical reharmonizing of Monk's tunes is far more in keeping with the spirit of the composer than virtually any straight reading of them in memory. By using the bass as an instrument that bridges harmonics rather than just as a rhythm instrument -- there is a trio of saxophonists and a trombonist -- he accomplishes the very thing Monk himself did on the piano, which was marry melody and harmony to rhythm as an inseparable musical effect. This is a fine album with many surprises along the way. For Monk fans or for those seeking the higher echelon of younger players, this one's for you.

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