Katia & Marielle Labeque: Rhythm-A-Ning

The wonderful pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque may be darlings of the classical world, but they have not been afraid to leave the reservation from time to time. Among their repertoire has been American popular music in the form of their highly appreciated takes on Leonard Bernstein's works, especially West Side Story. Occasionally they have also been found playing interpretive modern jazz, fusion and even sometimes Indo-jazz.

Of the two sisters, Katia seems more open to jazz and has performed it much more often. She is a fan of Miles Davis and has recorded piano duets with Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and many other keyboard greats.

Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning" is given the Labeque treatment. One might expect to most often hear a tune of this ilk performed in a small nightclub just before the break. But the Labeques treat it as a light classical piece. Their frenzied fingers cover the keyboard with a joyful ease. The ladies take solo turns and throw in enough arcane quotes to please even the most demanding and anal jazzophile.

Don't tell those jazzophiles that the funny thing is that neither Katia nor her sister improvises. Their parts are all written out. You would never know it and they don't hide it. If Herbie and Chick don't mind I don't.

Interesting note: The other night on television I came across a short feature on Madonna on one of those awful entertainment tabloid shows. In it she takes her road crew to Katia Labeque's house for a private concert. It turns out that Katia is her favorite piano player. It just goes to show you that Madonna has some taste too.

May 20, 2008 · 0 comments


Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk: Rhythm-A-Ning

One of the many strengths of Art Blakey's musical leadership was his ability to bring new musicians on board without sacrificing the overall sound or approach of the Jazz Messengers. Even when Thelonious Monk enters the picture, you may ask? Well, ultimately, yes.

The first half of the track is more like a Monk recording than a Messengers recording. Blakey is noticeably subdued, and although his signature pounding hi-hat pulse is still present, he lightly breaks the rhythm more like Roy Haynes than like Art Blakey. Blakey appears to be taking the backseat and allowing Monk to run the show. As the track progresses and the other musicians begin to solo, however, Blakey raises the intensity level, and the soloists take notice and answer the call. All of sudden, even though Monk's comping presence is felt throughout, the Messenger service is back in full swing replete with Blakey's big rolls between solos and signature solo licks to conclude the tune. The presence of Monk and his tunes on this '57 session makes for a fascinating study of the collision of dominant jazz personalities.

April 15, 2008 · 0 comments


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