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Memories of T

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 31, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Drummer Ben Riley played with Thelonious Monk in one of the pianist/composer's finest bands, the indefatigable quartet of the mid-60s, and Riley has been one of Monk’s greatest advocates ever since, including this sparkling, joyous septet. Don Sickler wrote the arrangements for the band, devising an original approach to orchestrating Monk without a piano by combining guitar with his own trumpet and three saxophones, often to mimic Monk's original accompaniments. The resulting clarity highlights Riley's subtly propulsive drumming and a general fidelity to Monk's style of melodic improvisation, most notably by newcomer Wayne Escoffery on tenor. Along with some of Monk's best-known tunes ("Rhythm-A-Ning" and "Straight, No Chaser" stand out), the band offers fine versions of three witty and obscure gems that Monk wrote for a 1955 Gigi Gryce session: "Gallop’s Gallop," "Brake’s Sake," and "Shuffle Boil." They're evidence of Riley and Sickler's thoughtful and thorough appreciation of modern jazz's greatest composer. --Stuart Broomer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 31, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Concord Records
  • ASIN: B000IFRQIG
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #478,612 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Now here's a tribute album with a twist... Riley & Co. play the music of Thelonious Monk in a pianoless septet. Instead of having a pianist do a second rate Monk imitation, 4 horns and a guitar are used to reproduce Monk's inimitable piano voicings. Ben Riley is in fine form, and trumpeter Don Sickler's arrangements really make Monk's tunes sound completely original, making the album much more than a tribute. Rudy Van Gelder's engineering is also top notch; the mix sounds like a sensual massage for the ears. A stellar package. Any Monk or jazz fan will eat this up.
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Ben Riley was Monk's drummer during his mid-sixties lineup. An amazing drummer in his own right, he gives a simply brilliant reading and presentation of some of the master jazz composer's finest works. This is a brass heavy lineup and man do they cook. Riley has done with Monk's compositions what the Mingus Dynasty Big Band has done for Charlie Mingus's brilliant compositions also. Riley prooves on this release that he is still a formidable, rock solid and very creative master on his own instrument. The horn section simply blows the house down. I am a huge fan of Monk and Mingus's 50's and 60's work and this is a fine addition to the catalog. The lineup is as follows: Ben Riley-Drums, Don Sickler-trumpet, Bruce Williams-Alto and Soprano Sax, Wayne Escaffery-Tenor Sax, Jimmy Greene-Tenor Sax, Jay Brandford-Baritone and Bass Sax, Freddie Bryant-Guitar, Hiyoshi Hitagawa-Bass and Peter Washington-Bass. Riley provides some of his best solo work here as well, and the horn players get to show off their chops a great deal also. All in all this a great recording and highly recommended for jazz fans, Monk fans, Riley fans or just lovers of great powerhouse straight no-nonsense music. I give this a strong 5 stars and hope that they record some more material, if they haven't already. Check out my other reviews.

John W. Shearer
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Ben Riley is a monster drummer. His work with Monk in the 60s was stellar. Riley has participated in many of these tribute albums, but the only one that really caught my attention was the one he did with Charlie Rouse called "Four In One," which was comprised of Kenny Barron on piano, Rouse on saxophone, Riley on drums, and Buster Williams on bass. This was an excellent tribute to pick up instead of this one.

My problem with with album isn't the fact that it's a pianoless quartet, but rather a mundane take on some of Monk's originals. Much of the music is way too busy to be appreciated because of the over abundance of horns that sound very unnatural. This recordiing just didn't flow like Monk's music. It just seemed way too forced.
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