Tete Montoliu: Straight, No Chaser
Straight, No Chaser
Tete Montoliu (piano)
The Music I Like To Play Vol. 3 – Let's Call This (Soul Note 121230-2)
Tete Montoliu (piano).
Composed by Thelonious Monk.
Recorded: Milan, Italy, January 28, 1990
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Thelonious Monk was unquestionably one of the greatest American composers of the 20th century. The fact that he also had a sparse piano style as distinctive and unique as his compositions put the final and definitive stamp on his body of work. A solo pianist such as Tete Montoliu, with his virtuosic and florid style, could either restrict his usual approach to better conform to Monk's roadmap, or just be himself and mold or adapt Monk to suit his own musical personality. Montoliu chose the latter path for his superb CD recital of Monk tunes.
The blind Catalonian could occasionally sound glib and superficial, letting his prodigious technique propel him through a piece with predictable, repetitious runs and little emotional depth. None of that is apparent on "Straight No Chaser." Tete starts out surprisingly with a tender, classically flavored short treatment of Monk's "Jackie-ing," with Monkish splays of dissonance for seasoning, before gliding seamlessly into the staccato theme of "Straight No Chaser." He unleashes daring single-note lines with firm left-hand commentary, sometimes bringing to mind the touch and glossy sound of Art Tatum, and at other times the exuberance of Bud Powell, as in his quick allusion to "Parisian Thoroughfare." Montoliu inventively mixes in a bluesy interlude, some pounding chords, and a walking bassline to add variety to his improvisation. The pianist's return to the melody gives way to a gentle coda and one final stabbed note in the best Monk tradition, as he craftily segues into the second tune of the program, "Reflections." This is Montoliu at his focused, creative best.
Reviewer: Scott Albin