Trumpet and flugelhorn artist Matt Lavelle studied with Ornette Coleman back in 2005 and subsequently took on the alto clarinet as well. The avant-garde musician who also has his own blog, teams up with John Pietaro, the vibraphonist and percussionist for an album of the music of Thelonious Monk. Both are known for their more or less radical views so it only seems fit to take on the music of another radical.
Both totally reconstruct Monk’s music and use Ornette Coleman‘s philosophy of harmolodics which, in his own words, is defined by “the use of the physical and the mental of one’s own logic made into an expression of sound to bring about the musical sensation of unison executed by a single person or with a group.” Which means that tunes like “Round Midnight”, “Monk’s Mood” or “Green Chimneys” are all totally open for free expression and all musical elements have the same value. At times, though, it seems that the melody has more meaning and at other times, speed and time seem to be the main focus only to come back later in the tune to the original idea of bringing the progression of the song into order.
I must confess that I was listening to their record while some heavy construction work was going on in our apartment building so that I had to turn the volume up significantly and only then came close to enjoying their loose feel on the mostly well-known Monk originals stripping them down naked and then putting their own intriguing ideas to them. Pietaro also plays the bodhrán which is an ancient Irish drum made with a wooden body and a goat-skin head, and is played with a double-headed stick.
Lavelle’s alto clarinet is front and center in his solo performance of “Crepuscule With Nellie” telling the story of Monk’s wife and muse Nellie. In “Ruby My Dear”, it is Pietaro taking the solo spot on another ballad which was written for another of Monk’s favorites, this time his first love Rubie Richardson.
A lot of senses are engrossed on this album which puts totally new frames on ten of Thelonious Monk’s tunes.