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  1. A six-CD set coming from Sunnyside later this autumn--here's the email I just received: I'm very excited to be working with pianist Frank Kimbrough on Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk, a six-CD boxed set of the entire Monk repertoire, to be released November 23 via Sunnyside. The album features Kimbrough with bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Billy Drummond and multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson. They celebrate the albums on Nov. 27 & 28 at The Jazz Standard in NYC. The recordings came about because, at their October 2017 performance, Kimbrough's friend Mait Jones urged that the group record Monk's entire oeuvre. A jazz fan and co-presenter of his own Princeton series JazzNights, Jones brought in his friend and fellow jazz head, Dr. Dorothy Lieberman, to help co-produce the effort. The recordings form a fantastically diverse collection. On the set Monk's compositions are played in various configurations, most by the quartet, but others in smaller combinations, even solo piano. Highlights of the group's takes on these classic pieces include Robinson's juggling of trumpet and tenor sax on "Thelonious" and the ensemble's free-wheeling energy on "Skippy." "Locomotive" is the picture of peaceful beauty, whereas "Jackie-ing" is all jumps and starts. Reid and Robinson play beautifully on "Reflections" and a lovely solo performance of "Crepuscule with Nellie" showcases Kimbrough's command of the piano and Monk's language. The package also includes beautifully penned liner notes from Nate Chinen (New York Times, WBGO and NPR) along with notes from members of the ensemble and the producers of the album. I'll have downloads soon, but just wanted to make sure you knew about this project. A press release is below. All the best, Ann Braithwaite Office: 781-259-9600 Text: 781-367-9760 Frank Kimbrough Quartet Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk A six-disc boxed set of the entire Thelonious Monk repertoire by a quartet led by pianist Frank Kimbrough will be released November 23, 2018! A celebration of this release will be held Nov. 27th and 28th at the Jazz Standard in New York City! © Marielle Solan The genius of pianist and composer Thelonious Monk is unassailable. Since his death in 1982, he has become recognized as one of the greatest composers of jazz – and of the wider world of music. The year 2017 was the centennial of Monk’s birth, and brought scores of tributes, including a well-received stay of pianist Frank Kimbrough’s quartet at the Jazz Standard club in New York City. Like many jazz pianists, Kimbrough found Monk’s music a revelation when he first heard it. From the outset of his career, Kimbrough has returned time and again to Monk’s compositions. After nearly four decades of study, reflection, and performance, Kimbrough has established a relationship with these pieces and found a way to express himself through the prism of Monk. When the Standard approached Kimbrough to put together a quartet to play Monk’s music, he picked the brilliant rhythm section of bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Billy Drummond. His choice for lead horn voice was the multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, with whom he has played for many years and in many combinations, most notably with the Maria Schneider Orchestra. After the first set of the October 17th, 2017 performance at the Standard Kimbrough’s friend Mait Jones urged that the group record Monk’s entire oeuvre, a feat that Kimbrough had never considered. A jazz fan and co-presenter of his own Princeton series JazzNights Jones began a lifelong appreciation of Monk when he heard the master live at the Five Spot in New York City in 1957 . Over the next few days, Jones doubled down on his intent to make the project reach fruition, bringing in his friend and fellow jazz head, Dr. Dorothy Lieberman, to help co-produce the effort. The musicians began the intensive work such a project demands. Finally, in April of 2018 Kimbrough led a trio and then the quartet at Jazz at the Kitano, polishing 30 new tunes on the way to the full Monk catalog of 70 pieces. For the recording, Matt Balitsaris provided his renowned Maggie’s Farm studios and an optimistic plan of recording a disc’s worth of material each day for six days. The musicians recorded each day from 11 to 5 or 6 in two three-day intervals broken up by a three-day respite. Miraculously this ambitious plan succeeded, with most tunes needing only one or two takes. Robinson picked his axe of choice on the spot, from the standard (tenor sax and trumpet) to the exotic (bass saxophone, echo cornet, bass clarinet, and contrabass sarrusophone). The resultant tracks are fresh, varied, and inspired. Highlights of the group’s takes on these classic pieces include Robinson’s juggling of trumpet and tenor sax on “Thelonious” and the ensemble’s free-wheeling energy on “Skippy.” “Locomotive” is the picture of peaceful beauty, whereas “Jackie-ing” is all jumps and starts. Reid and Robinson play beautifully on “Reflections” and a lovely solo performance of “Crepuscule with Nellie” showcases Kimbrough’s command of the piano and Monk’s language. The recordings form a fantastically diverse collection. On the six-CD set, titled Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk, Monk’s compositions are played in various configurations, most by the quartet, but others in smaller combinations, even solo piano. The package also includes beautifully penned liner notes from Nate Chinen (New York Times, WBGO and NPR) along with notes from members of the ensemble and the producers of the album.
  2. Monk's first and arguably finest solo record has been reissued recently with some intriguing (but probably not very good) bonus tracks from the concerts he was brought over for (the album was a by-product only I assume). His French accompanists (Jean-Marie Ingrand on bass and Jean-Louis Viale on drums, the later replaced prob. by Gérard "Dave" Pochonet on the last incomplete track) had a hard time it seems to figure out what was happening ... Have bought the CD in Milan on Sunday (was there to hear the new Sciarrino opera at La Scala) and will only be able to listen once back home (Wednesday evening earliest, still in Ferrara now, the most beautiful city on the planet ) Found this review though: http://www.londonjazznews.com/2017/09/cd-review-thelonious-monk-centennial.html?m=1
  3. I generally have no idea what recordings they're using as sources, but to my ears, some of the tracks sound fantastic. Listen to the broadcast or the online stream here: https://www.cc-seas.columbia.edu/wkcr/node/20306#
  4. Part 2 of the Night Lights program devoted to the life and music of Thelonious Monk with special guest Robin D.G. Kelley is up for online listening: Thelonious Monk: From Myth To Man Robin talks about why Monk went over so well at the Five Spot, his musical partnerships with John Coltrane and Charlie Rouse, his time at Columbia Records, his response to the free-jazz and civil-rights movement of the 1960s, his relationships with his wife Nellie and his friend Pannonica (the "Jazz Baroness"), and his late-period recordings and compositions. Here's Part 1 of the program: Thelonious Monk: From Man To Myth Next week: "Portraits of Harlem," featuring some previously unreleased excerpts from 1939 and 1945 broadcasts of James P. Johnson's Harlem Symphony, Duke Ellington's 1963 recording of his Tone Parallel to Harlem, Roy Eldridge's "I Remember Harlem" and much more, including an interview with John Howland, author of Ellington Uptown: Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson and the Birth of Concert Jazz.
  5. Part 1 of the two-part Night Lights program I did on Monk with biographer Robin D.G. Kelley is now up for online listening: Thelonious Monk: From Man to Myth (Part 1) It covers Monk's early years and the Blue Note/Prestige period. Special thanks to Joe Medjuck.
  6. As a musician and a man, Thelonious Monk must have provided easy inspiration for the title-namer of his 1956 Riverside album, The Unique Thelonious Monk. His singular sound on the piano, his inability to perform in New York City for several years (due to NYC’s cabaret laws), and his unorthodox compositions that sounded like urban spirituals filtered through stride and bop, nodding at some strange deity of cool, all contributed to a relatively low profile until the late 1950s, when his star suddenly began to ascend into a wider popular culture. Monk’s style was so strong that it’s not surprising that he rarely performed as a sideman–as pianist Ran Blake noted, “There’s never any doubt who’s at the keyboard…it may be a delayed attack on a chord, a cluster that pounces like a tornado, or a jagged snippet that asserts itself under a number of guises.” This program focuses on those few sideman appearances, featuring early performances with Coleman Hawkins and Dizzy Gillespie’s big band (a rare airshot of the pianist’s “Round Midnight”), as well as trumpeter Clark Terry, saxophonist Gigi Gryce, and Monk’s legendary Christmas Eve 1954 encounter with Miles Davis. “Side Monk” airs Saturday, October 6 at 11:05 p.m. EST on WFIU and at 9 p.m. Central Time on WNIN-Evansville; it also airs Sunday evening at 10 EST on Michigan's Blue Lake Public Radio. The program will be posted for online listening Monday morning in the Night Lights archives. In honor of what would have been Thelonious Monk’s 90th birthday (Oct. 10), Duke University is hosting a six-week celebration of Monk’s life and music. Here’s a hatless Monk in 1961 performing his composition “Rhythm-a-ning."
  7. This week on Night Lights we honor Sonny Rollins' upcoming 75th birthday (Sept. 7, 2005) with "Sonnymoon," a program of Rollins' recordings with piano giant Thelonious Monk. Monk forged a musical friendship with Rollins when the tenor saxophonist was still in his teens, a friendship that eventually produced some of the 1950s' most compelling jazz records. We'll hear selections from Monk and Rollins' dates for Prestige, their meeting on Monk's Riverside LP Brilliant Corners, and a final studio encounter, recorded for Blue Note in 1957, in which Monk plays musical piano chairs with Horace Silver on the Monk tune "Misterioso." "Sonnymoon" airs Saturday, September 3 at 11:05 p.m. (9:05 p.m. in California, 12:05 NYC time) on WFIU; it also airs earlier that evening at 10 (8 p.m. California time, 11 p.m. NYC time) as Night Lights makes its debut on Evansville's NPR-member station WNIN. You can listen live on either station, or wait until Monday afternoon, when the program will be posted in the Night Lights archives. Next week: "The Man Before Miles: Freddie Webster."