For lovers of Monk’s often eccentric piano poundings and endless chordal embellishments, it may be hard to even imagine a big band sound—with a row of saxophonists (who double as clarinetists and flautists: Bob Sheppard, Tom Luer, Tommy Peterson, Adam Schroeder, and Danny Janklow), trombonists (Wendell Kelly, Ryan Dragon, Lemar Guillary), and trumpeters (Bijon Watson, Rashawn Ross, James Ford, Brian Swartz), along with percussionist Peter Erskine, bass and acoustic player Ben Shepherd, and Beasley, himself, sporting a Monk-like tam, at the piano and occasionally stalking the stage as the director—yet Beasley’s arrangements incorporate much of the punch and yet complex texture of Monk’s works.
The utter talent of this group allows for a showcasing of the individuals, with a couple of baritone sax solos (particularly of interest to me, since I played that instrument in high school), a couple of trumpet and a trombone features, alto and tenor sex solos, and special focuses on the drummer and bassist, along with, of course, Beasley’s own very Monk-like piano renditions.
great composer—for example Bach, who sounds
great in any tempo. Monk’s music is so open
to interpretation because his compositions have
such a solid story. I figured out how to elongate
his sophisticated melodies and voice things in a
non-traditional way. And through it all, those
unforgettable melodies just stick with you.