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Mike Melillo: Bopcentric

Mike Melillo has been at it quite a while, gaining some notice when he joined Phil Woods in 1978 but already a veteran at that point. On Bopcentric he plays six Nichols tunes, six by Monk, and lets his own engaging “Monking Business” act as a buffer. The Nichols program is mostly relatively well-known tunes (relatively the key word-outside of “Lady Sings the Blues” no Nichols piece has had as many as a half-dozen non-composer recordings) and the Monk pieces relatively unfamiliar, like “Criss-Cross” and “Introspection”. Melillo does a great job with both of his subjects. His readings of Nichols are superficially closer to the originals than any other interpreter but full of little alterations of harmony, counterpoint, and melody, and he improvises over the mind-bending structures with grace and aplomb. The Monk set is equally satisfying, including many a Monkish flourish that is really Melillo’s. Massimo Moriconi and Giampaolo Ascolese acquit themselves admirably on rhythm for one of the best trio records of the year.

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