Hat and Beard The Music of Thelonious Monk

With reverential treatments of Monk's compositions abounding, it is wonderful to have this joyous celebration of the iconoclast's music as a most welcome counter-balance. Right out of the gate, this duo are clearly having fun playing the tunes. Drummer Dave Clark is positively irrepressible, with hoots, groans and encouraging comments emanating from behind the kit, his fizzing swing is never less than propulsive and life affirming. Starting with a lively take on "52nd Street Theme," guitarist Ken Aldcroft is anything but precious, taking chances with note choices and phrasing that would take the curl out of Monk true believers' hair. Clark's impelling brushwork raises the roof on "Green Chimneys," which has rarely received such an energetic handling. Hardly ever will you hear Monk played with such a wide range of dynamics, from head-thwackingly punchy to nearly inaudible, as on the intros to "Nutty" and "I Mean You" (Alcroft makes this happen, dramatically). It's appropriate that "Nutty" would feature the most unlikely, yet apposite, instrument on a Monk tune: Clark's singing slide whistle. Good fun, good music, good spirit. (Trio)