Andy Summers: Green Chimneys: The Music of Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk, with his playfulness and profundity, clenched voicings and wily spirit, would seem a likely source of inspiration and tribute for the ranks of guitar players, that rangy, spidery species of instrumentalists, for whom fourths and fifths come naturally, digitally. Yet surprisingly few guitarists have taken on Monk as an interpretive challenge, making Andy Summers’ new project, Green Chimneys, The Music of Thelonious Monk, all the more engaging, not to mention that it’s his finest solo album yet.

The lingering spirit of the Hal Willner-produced Monk tribute prevails here, with textural quirks that suit the particular quality of Monk Think. That album’s dueling guitar version of “Work,” with Chris Spedding and Peter Frampton, hinted at the guitaristic possibilities, further explored here. A bit of banjo on “Brilliant Corners” makes for a brilliant little touch, slithering atop Peter Erskine’s reggae-flavored pulse, and an ensemble that includes organist Joey DeFrancesco (also a saucy presence on “Think of One”), and drowsy horns (Walt Fowler and Steve Tavaglione). Inventive use of textures and treatments invites fresh hearing of old favorites and obscurities in the Monk ouevre, including the rock-ish distortion on “Shuffle Boil” and high harmonics, like glass spider-dancing, on “Boo Boo’s Birthday.” His old pal Sting, the cameo king of late, does a nice enough version of “‘Round Midnight” and Hank Roberts’ cello weaves, oddly, logically, into the fabric.

The former Police guitarist is not the most nimble or studied of soloists, on jazz terms, but his rough edges and behind-the-beat feel work in his favor here, as does his obviously humble reverence for Monk, his nicely worked-out voicings and colorful arrangemental notions. It seems apparent that he did it for love.