r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 30 12:18:20 EST 2006

“Memories of T”

The drummer Ben Riley has as valid a claim as anyone
on the music of Thelonious Monk. Mr. Riley worked with
Monk in the mid-to-late 1960s, a stretch when that
stubbornly brilliant pianist and composer was enjoying
the cachet of a spot on the cover of Time magazine.
Monk’s band of that period was the steadiest of his
career; it was also one of his best, partly because of
Mr. Riley’s coolly effervescent swing.

Not surprisingly Mr. Riley brings that same feeling to
“Memories of T,” a warm and thoughtful recording by
his pianoless Monk Legacy Septet. Digging in
rhythmically with a bassist and a guitarist, Mr. Riley
confidently steers a repertory tribute that in other
hands might have felt overeager or polite.

In terms of concept and orchestration “Memories of T”
bears the signature of the trumpeter Don Sickler, who
wrote a series of resourceful arrangements transposing
Monk’s music to a midsize ensemble. On more than a few
tunes a four-part horn section spells out the jangly
or cascading lines that Monk regularly played, and the
effect is refreshing: what had become a mannered
pianism manages to sound smart, as voiced for a
trumpet and three saxophones.

The musicians, Mr. Sickler included, are nicely suited
to the material, even if their work satisfies more
than it overwhelms. There are standout moments, like
Wayne Escoffery’s too-brief tenor-saxophone excursion
on “Rhythm-A-Ning,” but the album’s best feature is
its smart collectivity. That and Mr. Riley’s drumming,
ebullient as ever. NATE CHINEN

Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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