Cruel Frederick

We Are the Music We Play

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We Are the Music We Play is a mixed bag, but an improvement over the group's debut. Despite the title, which comes from a quote made by saxophonist Albert Ayler, the main character here is Thelonious Monk: the trio plays versions of three Monk tunes, while one of their originals, "Ms. Pines" is clearly based around his "Mysterioso." The stomping, rowdy version of Monk's "Little Rootie Tootie" and the more subdued "Reflections" stand out as the album's highlights, both featuring some fine saxophone blowing by Lynn Johnston. There is also an entertaining enough version of Ornette Coleman's chipper, up-tempo "Dee Dee." The trouble lies with the group's own, improv-heavy originals, which fill out the album. Whether shrill and noisy (see the title track) or sparse and deliberate ("Those Dulcet Tones"), these pieces have a hard time getting off the ground or making anything really memorable happen. As a result, We Are the Music We Play comes off as an inconsistent and often frustrating listen.

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