Picks and Pans Review: That's the Way I Feel Now: a Tribute to Thelonious Monk

updated 08/20/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/20/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Various Artists

When Monk died in 1982, writes producer Hal Willner, "at all the tribute concerts I attended, only musicians from the jazz world were represented. It didn't seem right." Willner, who had assembled an eclectic tribute to movie score composer Nino Rota in 1982, knew how far the waves of Monk's influence had actually spread. He began calling musicians, and this two-record set is the truly extraordinary result. Chris Spedding and, of all people, Peter Frampton whip electric guitars through the tricky melody of Work. Todd Rundgren marshals synthesizers and drum machines to turn Four in One into a kind of space-age Keystone Kops slapstick, with Gary Windo providing unlikely rainbow hues on alto sax. Each of 23 Monk tunes gets a unique interpretation. Some, like John Zorn's beeping, buzzing Shuffle Boil, celebrate Monk's irrepressible humor, which could be sly or guffawing. The Detroit duo Was (Not Was) puts the tune Ba-Lue-Bolivar-Ba-Lues-Are in the context of a wailing and surreal New Orleans funeral march, while Mark Bingham and John Scofield on electric guitars delve into the strangely funky tension and looming dignity of Brilliant Corners. Jazzmen long associated with Monk have not, by the way, been shut out of this project. The likes of Barry Harris, Elvin Jones, Johnny Griffin and Gil Evans hold their own against the more immediately ear-catching offbeat cuts. The offerings are united by their understanding of and unabashed affection for the late pianist-composer. A good example is Joe Jackson's simple piano solo and caressing big-band and string arrangement of 'Round Midnight, possibly Monk's most transcendent melody. The piece builds naturally from, and ultimately leads back to, the haunting sound of a softly struck gong. Since Joe began experimenting with jazz and other nonrock forms, this is one of the best things he has done. (A&M)

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