Eric Reed – The Dancing Monk – Savant Records SCD 2108 46:06 ****:
(Eric Reed – piano; Ben Wolfe – bass; McClenty Hunter – drums)
Today’s landscape of jazz pianists is dotted with individuals who have a strong music education background, spent time in highly regarded bands, and have a respect for the traditions of the music. Eric Reed is one of these pianists.
In this latest project,” The Dancing Monk” Reed brings his unquestioned talent face to face with the compositions of Thelonious Monk, and emerges not only unscathed, but all the more consummate for it. The challenge in Monk’s music is not so much the structure of the compositions, but whether to give them a Monkish interpretation, or to use them as a basis for one’s own reading of the material. Wisely Reed has chosen the latter course. Only one of the tunes on the disc is not a Monk composition and that is the title piece of music by Reed “The Dancing Monk”. This is a sprightly morsel with a noticeable Monk-like arrangement and which becomes a showcase for the drummer McClenty Hunter. The other compositions, with a couple of his lesser known tunes thrown in, are generally part of the standard Monk repertoire.
Given Reed’s technique and confident playing, all of the tunes show his awareness of the material and judgment in execution. It would be worthwhile however, to comment on several particular examples. Leading off with “Ask Me Now”, which is taken at a waltz tempo, Reed indicates that imagination will play a strong part in what follows. With “Eronel”, Reed lays out the theme with a subtle divergence from the expected structure. Ben Wolfe on bass is given some freedom to show his versatility on “Light Blue” with Reed comping in the background.”Ruby, My Dear” has those beautiful cord changes which Reed handles with dexterity. On “Ugly Beauty” the tune is offered with an unexpected Latin twist that drummer McClenty delivers with flair. The often recorded “’Round Midnight”, provides the trio an opportunity to execute the tune with delicacy.
Eric Reed is an accomplished pianist who was attracted to Monk’s music, and has executed a fitting tribute to the master‘s rhythmic strength and musical mischievousness.
TrackList: Ask Me Now; Eronel; Reflections; Light Blue; Ruby, My Dear; Pannonica; Ugly Beauty; The Dancing Monk; “Round Midnight; Blue Monk.
— Pierre Giroux