Alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune has played in so many settings over the decades, it's difficult to keep them straight. Through them all, however, he has kept his reedy tone, sharp angular mode of attack, and on-the-spot sense of timing and phraseology. On this program Fortune teams with drummer Billy Hart, the late pianist Kirk Lightsey, bassist David Williams, and drummer Joe Chambers for an all Monk program. There would be nothing unusual in this, except that Fortune is one of those horn players who works exceptionally well with pianists, and in Lightsey he has found the closest stylist to Monk he has ever worked with. Lightsey is perfectly suited for Monk's more dialogic harmonic sense. Check out the interplay between them on "Little Rootie Tootie," "Mysterioso," "Off Minor," and "Nutty." Lightsey lays out Monk's extrapolated harmonics with a like minded percussive, rhythmic edge, and offers a large middle range in between his two hands for Fortune to work his magic. And, like Charlie Rouse, Fortune has the canny sense of phrase to hit the accents on the falling edge each and every time. But in Fortune's playing there is no round off or softening; he's always looking to move it to something more complex and knotty. The rhythm section here, especially Joe Chambers, feels the differences between Monk's blues-oriented swing with the off-kilter rhythmic edge and the post-bop interpretation that's being offered. The program moves seamlessly from one track to the next with an ever-engaging lyric sense and virtuoso interaction between the principals. There are lots and lots and lots of Monk programs, but few of them live up to the promise of the composer. This is one that does.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek