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Steve Slagle Quartet: Steve Slagle Plays Monk

Monk is the object of much reverence in our world, so that recitals devoted to the great pianist/composer’s music are by no means unusual. But here are two dates, each led by a horn man, with nary a pianist in sight. Another point of intersection: Adam Nussbaum is the drummer on both discs-and more on that later. The similarities end soon enough, however: There is but one common tune on the two discs, and Slagle includes a tribute tune of his own. More to the point, Slagle makes his arrangements around the interplay of his alto sax and clarinet with Dave Stryker’s guitar, where Liebman takes a more daring trio approach. Slagle exploits the harmonic depth afforded by the guitar, still giving Jay Anderson on bass plenty of space to mediate. Highlights include a “Criss-Cross” that revels in the piece’s ambiguities, a languid “Light Blue” and Slagle’s “Monk,” a jump tune with a twist. Nussbaum is completely apposite throughout, offering a few rhythmic comments, but in large measure the accompanist here.

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