Depth of understanding with regard to the historical lineage of one’s instrument is a vital component in a jazz musician’s development. On Speaking in Tongues, Arizona-based pianist/educator Michael Kocour, with rock-solid support from bassist Dwight Kilian and drummer Dom Moio, delivers a swinging, straight-ahead set of familiar and not-so-familiar gems from the repertoires of Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk, arguably two of the most monumental influences on modern jazz piano.
Powell’s compositions propose technical challenges to pianists that require unwavering precision. Kocour steps up to the plate and meets these challenges head on with tremendous success. The pianist navigates the bumpy waters of Powell’s "Un Poco Loco" and "Wail" with charged up energy and driving support from Kilian and Moio. "Oblivion," "Parisian Thoroughfare" and "Dusk in Sandi," performed solo, illuminate a more pensive side to Powell’s compositions.
The rich legacy of music left behind by Monk is staggering; the incomparable pianist composed a wealth of quirky, sophisticated tunes that complimented his unique piano style. The trap that many pianists fall into when covering Monk is the temptation to indulge in overt imitation. Kocour avoids the plunge into parody by applying the nuances of classics like "Ask Me Now," "Bye-Ya" and "Four in One" to his own distinct, swinging style. His dark, funky take on "Think of One" is a highlight of the disc.
Speaking in Tongues is a wonderful tribute to two of the undisputed giants of jazz. Kocour and company swing relentlessly and serve the music well. The disc will appeal to fans of the classic piano trio sound.