Tenor saxophone, bass, and drums make for a pretty stark instrumentation, and when you combine that kind of textural austerity with the sometimes forbiddingly jagged melodies of Thelonious Monk, you might not expect the results to be very attractive. Actually, however, saxophonist Dave Liebman has several things working in his favor: first of all, he's got Eddie Gomez on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums, both of whom are known for greater-than-average endowments of taste and inventiveness. The two are supremely capable of simultaneously keeping things interesting and holding down the fort rhythmically and harmonically. The other thing Leibman has going for him is an acute sense of both the deep weirdness and the joy of Monk's music. He romps gleefully through "Teo" and "Monk's Dream" in a relatively straightforward way, but makes "Gallop's Gallop" a three-way improv (following an extended drum intro) that falls away entropically from its thematic center before limping back to a semblance of coherence at its squawking end. The program is bracketed by two very different versions of "Monk's Mood," the first a trio performance and the last a duet between Gomez and Liebman on piano. This might not be the ideal introduction to Thelonious Monk's music, but for those who have heard these tunes a hundred times before and are ready for a different approach, this disc will be revelatory.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson