JIMMY OWENS, THE MONK PROJECT


For a jazz musician to put together a tribute to pianist and composer Thelonious Monk as his debut might give one pause – I mean, haven’t we heard this all before? But in the hands of trumpeter Jimmy Owens, the music is wrapped tight in the blues and whether it bustles (“Bright Mississippi”) swings (“Let’s Cool One”) or revels in quirkiness (“Brilliant Corners”) it turns out that there’s still plenty of elasticity and an element of surprise in Monk’s classic tunes. An NEA Jazz Master and educator, Owens recruits an all-star band comprised of trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland and baritone sax player Howard Johnson with an equally unflappable rhythm section of pianist Kenny Barron (himself the leader of the Monk tribute band back in the day called Sphere), bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Winard Harper. The band shines as a whole but saxophonist Marcus Strickland gets extra credit for his salient phrasing and bursts of improvisational goodness. The music may be familiar on “The Monk Project” but Owens makes it sound remarkably attractive all over again. (10 tracks; 75:01 minutes)

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JAZZ IN SPACE: JIMMY OWENS, THE MONK PROJECT

Friday, February 24, 2012

JIMMY OWENS, THE MONK PROJECT


For a jazz musician to put together a tribute to pianist and composer Thelonious Monk as his debut might give one pause – I mean, haven’t we heard this all before? But in the hands of trumpeter Jimmy Owens, the music is wrapped tight in the blues and whether it bustles (“Bright Mississippi”) swings (“Let’s Cool One”) or revels in quirkiness (“Brilliant Corners”) it turns out that there’s still plenty of elasticity and an element of surprise in Monk’s classic tunes. An NEA Jazz Master and educator, Owens recruits an all-star band comprised of trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland and baritone sax player Howard Johnson with an equally unflappable rhythm section of pianist Kenny Barron (himself the leader of the Monk tribute band back in the day called Sphere), bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Winard Harper. The band shines as a whole but saxophonist Marcus Strickland gets extra credit for his salient phrasing and bursts of improvisational goodness. The music may be familiar on “The Monk Project” but Owens makes it sound remarkably attractive all over again. (10 tracks; 75:01 minutes)

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