Tuesday, March 8, 2011

T.S. Monk On Monk

T.S. Monk, drummer and bandleader, is the son of renowned pianist and composer, Thelonious Monk. I think T.S. also stands for Thelonious Sphere, same as his father but anyway, Monk the younger goes by T.S. He founded the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, dedicated to honoring (promoting) the music of his father and educating and nurturing new jazz talent.

T.S. tours the world performing his father’s ensemble music. In Tucson recently, he presented a show for which he is known, called “Monk on Monk” with a brass and piano sextet. It was quickly expanded to ten players with the addition of a tuba and bass sax, and some other horns, for a smoothly blended “Monk’s Mood.” The sound was good overall, and of course anyone who loves Monk’s music can’t get enough of it. Nevertheless, individual performances seemed lackluster. Nothing sparkled except the instruments.

T.S.’s drumming tends to the musical, which I like. He is 60 years old now, so one cannot expect fireworks. The different drums are tuned over a wide pitch range (I don’t know proper drum terminology) and he uses that variability to produce some melodious solos instead of the usual whap-bang theatrics. The playlist was not tremendously satisfying. It emphasized lesser-known works, such as Little Rootie-Tootie, Boo-Boo’s Birthday, and Crepuscule with Nellie, tunes that he explained were dedicated by his father to the family. I suspect there are still copyright issues with the “big” tunes, like ‘Round Midnight and Epistrophy, that prevent them from being featured. Still, it was good music, if lackluster.

T.S. put out a disc in 1997, also called T.S. Monk on Monk, which included just about the same playlist as this show, but had in the band such luminaries as Roy Hargrove, Dave Holland, Christian McBride, Wayne Shorter, and many others. Now, that music pops, so I conclude that the Tucson concert was not lukewarm because of the playlist but because of the players. Or maybe it’s something about Tucson itself that makes performers sleepy.

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