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When A Monk Meets a Dolphin...

Green Dolphin Street a classy Chicago jazz bistro/supper club was the setting for a two-night stand of drummer T.S. Monk’s sextet. It was essentially the same grouping of players as their latest platter Higher Ground (Thelonious/Hyena), albeit with two substitutions: Nick Rolfe, piano, and Keith Newton, reeds, in place of Ray Gallon and Willie Williams, respectively; Winston Byrd, trumpet & flugelhorn, Bobby Porcelli, alto sax & flute; David Jackson, acoustic bass. In front of a near-packed, very appreciative (though gabby in spots) crowd, the TSM sextet laid down some earnest, swinging hard bop reminiscent of the Blue Note sound circa the mid-to-late-1960s, with some tasty and tasteful tinges of pop/R&B melodiousness. This son of Monk is a powerful, propulsive drummer (a la Ben Riley, who drummed for his dad) who betrays a subtle funk influence he’s not "playing" funk, mind you, but Monk has the punchy whomp, the directness of a funk/R&B drummer. Rolfe’s fine key-work, too, had a touch o’ funk in his playing, but a tad more directly. Compositionally, there weren’t many surprises structure-wise, it’s all hard-bop theme/solos/theme (their new album is much more varied and has stronger pop/funk leanings), but the soloing was both concise and spirited, and the front line frequently engaged in a bit of "call-and-response," some friendly dual/dueling soloing. Porcelli soared in a style that was Jackie McLean tart, Cannonball Adderley bluesy and Phil Woods confidently fluid, and Newton wailed in a hearty, pointed style that recalls the late inside/outside tenorman George Adams. Byrd crackled and bristled like a true son of Freddie Hubbard, and Jackson was rock-solid (though the latter was hampered some by "buzzy" sound when he soloed or it could’ve just been where I was standing). The set consisted of band originals, save for the hard-bop delight "Philly Twist" (by Kenny Dorham) and a spunky, bracing, genially audacious rendition of "Think Of One" (by the senior T. Monk) as the set’s closer. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable set of mainstream jazz (that brought a series of smiles to this cynical writer’s kisser).

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: T.S. Monk
  • Concert Date: 9/27/2003
  • Subtitle: T.S. Monk Sextet live in Chicago
  • Venue: Green Dolphin Street
  • City State Country: Chicago IL
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