In conversation one of the points Wynton Marsalis drives home is the fact that jazz musicians have long been guilty of boring the audience through over-long soloing and falling into the head-solos-head ad nauseum routine. And indeed it is all too true that this tired format, including solos that often journey well beyond the boundaries of fresh ideas and fail to tell any semblance of a story, is more likely to yield a glazed-over audience than it is to generate true excitement. Admittedly in covering Monk, Wynton has chosen a path traversed by more than a few. On this disc one hears a concerted effort to avoid the gates of apathy, through conscious editing of the improvisations, varying the format to a refreshing degree, and addressing Monk’s music with a New Orleans kind of sparkle and joy, including use of polyphony, that is palpable and rewarding. Case in point is “Green Chimneys”, which closes not with the typical ensemble head statement, but with a trumpet and drum outro.
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