Take One

T.S. Monk

Take One
(Blue Note)

Take One

Don Sickler, trumpet;, Willie Williams, tenor sax; Bobby Porcelli, alto sax;
Ronnie Mathews, piano; James Genus, bass; T.S. Monk, drums.

1. Monaco (Kenny Dorham) 6:32
2. Skippy (Monk) 3:38
3. Infra-Rae (Hank Mobley) 6:05
4. Waiting (Idrees Sulieman) 5:41
5. Boa (Elmo Hope) 4:49
6. Round Midnight (Monk) 7:25
7. Jodi (Walter Davis) 4:32
8. Bear Cat (Clifford Jordan) 3:51
9. Capetown Ambush (Donald Brown) 5:36
10. Shoutin' (Tommy Turrentine) 6:12
11. Minor's Holiday (Kenny Dorham) 5:20
12. Think Of One (Monk) 6:39
Cover Photo by JOE GRANT
Cover Design by MARK LARSON
Recording by RUDY VAN GELDER
Recorded on October 16, 1991

A wise decision, eminently clear on this CD, is the quality of company T.S. Monk chose to keep.

Don Sickler is not only a fluent and lyrical trumpeter, but also an arranger who wrote or rewrote the charts for this album. Some were based on the original arrangements by the composers: "Jodi," for example, was expanded from Walter Davis's two horn routine to fit the three-horn requirements here; "Round Midnight" draws on some Max Roach ideas; "Skippy" is based on the 1952 Monk arrangement.

Sharing the front line are Bob Porcelli on alto and Willie Williams on tenor. Porcelli, surprisingly, is a longtime Latin jazzman who has worked with Tito Puente and others in that world, yet he can turn around and play first rate unhyphenated jazz. Willie Williams' tenor not long ago graced the Abdullah Ibrahim group in a South African tour. Ronnie Mathews has credits with Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon and Joe Henderson. James Genus is another versatile artist, adept on upright and electric bass, heard in many jazz, R&B and funk settings.

The Kenny Dorhom tune "Monaco," recorded by Dorhom in 1956, starts in a slow Latin groove before moving into a brisk beat that provides a point of departure for the soloist. Note the interaction between Sickler and the saxes, the fleet single note lines of Mathews, and the eight-bar exchanges with Monk, who is typically expressive without resorting to bombast. The theme returns along with the slow tempo to complete a well structured performance.

"Skippy" is played mainly in unison, with a quirky up and down series of eight chords linking the solos. Hank Mobley's "Infra-Rae" similarly uses an ensemble device to bridge the solo passages. "Waiting" was composed by Idrees Sulieman, the trumpeter who played on Thelonious Monk's first band session in 1947. The interweaving horns, the contemplative piano and Porcelli's alto switching the lead role with Sickler make for an unconventional ballad performance.

"Boa," written and recorded in 1960 by pianist Elmo Hope, is neatly arranged, with muted horn by Sickler, buoyant alto, Monk's sympathetic backing during Mathews' chorus and his series of breaks with the horns. "Round Midnight" is one of the most inventive and unconventional among the countless recorded versions of Thelonious' most famous standard. It goes not only into double time but eventually into quadruple time--i.e. 128 bars to a chorus. Intermittent use is made of the eight notes that were originally heard in the final bars.

"Jodi," the Walter Davis Jr. original, is notable for the logic and power of Willie Williams' tenor, who despite his formidable chops never indulges in the excesses so common to tenor forays. Clifford Jordan's "Bearcat," written in 1952, incorporates a hint of the blues in spirit, though not in structure. Donald Brown's "Capetown Ambush" makes insistent and attractive us of a B Flat pedal tone that continues under the exposition of the theme. Note particularly the use of dynamic contrast and the touches of near-chaos that nevertheless seem logical. Tommy Turrentine, Stanley's trumpeter brother, composed "Shoutin'," a typical 1950s style hard bop tune brought up to date through a series of bristling solos. The tempo shifts way up for Kenny Dorham's "Minor's Holiday," which the late trumpeter wrote and recorded in March 1955.

Finally there is "Think Of One." another piece with a surprising start: when the senior Monk recorded it in 1953 at Rudy Van Gelder's studio, Rudy had little T.S., then not quite four years old, call out the numbers for the various takes. The childish voice you will hear announcing "Think of One" is indeed T.S. himself at age three. The tune is typical early bobop, complete with flatted fifths. There are marginal Monkish moments in Mathews' solo. James Genus contributes some interesting bass work before the out chorus.

As these notes went to press, T.S. Monk was preparing for an active season with this splendid ensemble. "I'm going to be all over the place--the North Sea Festival, The Nice Festival, the JVC Festival in New York and the Playboy Festival in L.A. as well as two festivals in Japan. I'm going to be everywhere!" The verdict will be unanimous, I suspect: T.S. Monk's decision to return to straightahead jazz, and the long time he spent auditioning musicians who he felt would fit his concept have paid off handsomely. With his Blue Note contract and friends in the jazz world, he is surely headed for a belated but triumphant career as a jazz maestro in his own right.

--LEONARD FEATHER, from the liner notes.

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