You could say that Eric Reed has a thing for Monk: The Adventurous Monk is the pianist’s third crack at interpreting the repertoire of his most apparent obsession, following 2011’s The Dancing Monk and the following year’s The Baddest Monk. He’s also placed Monk material on other releases, but Reed has been careful to change things up as he continues to delve (and to break up the run with unrelated projects-his last one was a solo gospel effort) by bringing in new accompanists and trying new approaches.
For The Adventurous Monk, tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake is the only returnee; Ben Williams has the bass duties, Gregory Hutchinson is on drums and there’s a vocalist, Charenee Wade, on one track, “Dear Ruby (Ruby My Dear).” The quartet comes out of the gate swinging hard: “Thelonious,” which Reed previously performed in a tamer arrangement with Wynton Marsalis on the latter’s Standard Time, Vol. 4: Marsalis Plays Monk in 1999, is near-manic at times, Blake’s solo redolent of the adrenalized jump blues style of the late ’40s. “‘Round Midnight,” a tune that has probably been worked many more times than it needs to be at this point, is given breathing room, the sax sitting it out to allow Reed and Williams ample opportunities to look for the intricacies within the familiar melody.
“Gallop’s Gallop,” a particular highlight, saunters along atop Williams’ walking bass: Blake and Reed’s unison intro gives way to brainy, brawny solos and a boisterousness that feels more big band than quartet. The vocal track, Wade accompanied only by Reed and Williams, would seem out of place if it weren’t so sweet. It’s yet another side of the Monk canon as envisioned by an artist who, we can only hope, will never tire of returning to the same bottomless well.