"It’s not often that one gets the opportunity to fulfill a dream for both yourself and that of your father. Thelonious Records is that opportunity for me. My dad dreamed of one day owning his records, and that is what Thelonious Records is all about-family. It begins with Monk and Monk, and one day it will be, Monk and Monk and friends," states T.S.
Shortly following the release of the new T.S. Monk album, Higher Ground, Thelonious Records will begin a series of releases that explore the Thelonious Monk archives, focusing primarily on previously unheard "live" concert recordings. The excavation of the Monk archives will be overseen by record producer Joel Dorn whose HYENA Records has partnered with Thelonious Records for national distribution through RYKO. The first title scheduled is Monk In Paris: Live At The Olympia, set for release on September 23, 2003. This will also include a bonus DVD featuring Monk performing in Oslo the following year.
If the title Higher Ground evokes a sense of confidence and self-fulfillment, it’s not without good reason. With his new record, T.S. Monk has settled into his sound, and is finally making the type of records that reflect his own sensibilities as an artist who’s spanned a wide spectrum of styles over his career-from R&B to traditional jazz.
"On ‘Higher Ground’ is where I want to be-where the free thinkers of jazz reside close to the people," declares Monk. "For me that place is somewhere between Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and tomorrow’s sound. It’s really smooth, and it’s really jazz." T.S. Monk (Higher Ground) continued
Higher Ground opens with the readily swinging, Latin-tinged "Haristocracy," written by his alto saxophonist Bobby Porcelli. The piece is a perfect vehicle for everyone in Monk’s septet to stretch out and shine. Monk then delves into "Girl Watchin’," a funky composition by one of his favorite young jazz writers, Donald Brown. Pianist Ray Gallon provides a smooth and sparkling electric piano break, which characterizes Monk’s desire to expand the group’s sound with wider styles of instrumentation. Cedar Walton’s "Mosaic" also subscribes to this philosophy, featuring guest vocalist Miles Griffith on a classic bit of vocalese.
T.S. Monk places great emphasis on showcasing the writing skills of his group. "The emotions of my musicians are best reflected in the tunes they write. You know I don’t have a transient band. It’s a place they want to stay, like home," says T.S. In addition to Bobby Porcelli’s opening cut, trumpeter Winston Byrd is showcased on the smooth and soulful "Ladera Heights," undoubtedly a standout track on Higher Ground. Pianist Ray Gallon receives two tracks, the first being the pretty and plaintive "Missing Line," and the second being its polar opposite, the funky, New Orleans-inspired "Craw-Daddy," complete with Monk and company’s background vocals. The album’s closer is the driving, heavily syncopated "Millennium Dance," contributed by tenor saxophonist Willie Williams.
T.S. Monk will hit the road in support of Higher Ground with dates planned across the country for the remainder of summer and fall. With a new album, his own record label, a national tour and his ongoing work as Chairman of the Board for The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, T.S. Monk is back in full swing, and indeed, hitting Higher Ground.
August 1/Milwaukee, WI/Third Ward Festival
August 6/Telluride, CO/Sunset Concert Series
August 7 & 8/Steamboat Springs, CO/Strings In The Mountain
September 19/Davidson, NC/Davidson College
September 25/Grinnell, IA/Grinnell College
September 26 & 27/Chicago, IL/Green Dolphin
September 28/Lincoln, NE/The Rococo Theater
October 10/Jacksonville, FL/Ritz Theater
October 22-24/Durham, NC/Duke University
November 8/Newark, NJ/NJ Performing Arts Center
****Additional Dates to be Announced Shortly