Zaid Nasser: Off Minor

Saying that "Off Minor" is one of Thelonious Monk's more difficult tunes is like saying the Empire State Building is one of New York's taller buildings. In general, performance of Monk's compositions demands a sophisticated understanding of harmony, yet "Off Minor" is complex even by Monk's standards. Its chromatic and tritone harmonic relationships present a daunting challenge to even the most accomplished improviser. Zaid Nasser makes things even more difficult for himself by choosing to take it at a faster pace. Instead of the medium swing feel usually favored by Monk, Nasser quickens it to a medium-up tempo. The knotty changes fly by at a slightly higher velocity than he seems comfortable addressing. His normally fluid lines become discontinuous and studied. His characteristic self-assuredness fades. Pianist Sacha Perry is somewhat more at ease. His lines connect the harmonic dots more completely, though it's left to bassist Ari Roland to make the most successful statement. Roland's arco solo is finely detailed. He's obviously internalized the tune to a greater extent than either Nasser or Perry. Even when his reach slightly exceeds his grasp, Roland plows through single-mindedly, without undue regard for the consequences … which is the best way to approach The Onliest, in this writer's opinion.

March 09, 2009 · 0 comments


Thelonious Monk: Criss Cross (1951 recording)

        Thelonious Monk at Salle Pleyel (1954)
                Photo by Marcel Fleiss

Bebop pioneer Thelonious Monk’s piano playing may have been too eccentric for some listeners, but his compositions are universally admired. “Criss Cross” demonstrates Monk’s superior craftsmanship as a composer of miniature instrumental works. Although it follows the common song form of AABA, the A section comes in two thematic parts and the B section, rather than introducing an expected contrasting melody, utilizes as its basis the A themes in reverse order. And Monk’s improvisation develops the thematic material even further. As a result, the piece exhibits the continuity and cohesiveness characteristic of all well-structured compositions

October 22, 2007 · 0 comments


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