Long before the arrival of 2017, his centennial year, Thelonious Monk had become the most covered composer in jazz. It sometimes feels like every new jazz record has to have a Monk tune. And Monk tribute albums are myriad: Latin Monk, vocal Monk, alt-rock Monk, organ Monk. His art is large enough to absorb almost anything.
John Beasley’s salute to Monk, now in two volumes, is an ambitious big-band project featuring new arrangements, 16 proficient players and several high-profile guests. Vol. 1 got good press and two Grammy nominations. The news on Vol. 2 is mixed.