By Jeff Potter | Published November 2018
Setting Thelonious Monk’s music in a big band format is nothing new. But when composer/arranger Miho Hazama was invited to collaborate with the Netherlands-based, 17-piece Metropole Orkest Big Band for a 2017 Monk centennial celebration, she took a decidedly different tack. When researching sources, Hazama became entranced by Monk’s solo piano work and decided to make it the foundation for the majority of her arrangements. The results, as captured live from Amsterdam, are thoroughly imaginative and thrilling. The intent here is not to simulate Monk’s sly, ragged playing. Instead, the material highlights the beauty of Monk’s simple melodies and his distinct harmonies. The opener, “Thelonious,” sets the tone, mischievously unfolding with what seems to be an orchestra tune-up, morphing into a baritone/tenor duet, followed by full-blown swing. “Ruby My Dear” initially makes great textural use of multiple clarinets, the canvas segueing to a swaying pulse. Rich with rewarding surprises, this captivating collaboration both reinvents and re-embraces an old friend.
The Monk: Live At Bimhuis: Thelonious; Ruby, My Dear; Friday The 13th; Hackensack; ’Round Midnight; Epistrophy; Crepuscule With Nellie. (50:05)
Personnel: Miho Hazama, conductor; Marc Scholten, Paul van der Feen, Leo Janssen, Sjoerd Dijkhuizen, Max Boeree, saxophone, clarinet; Ray Bruinsma, Martijn de Laat, Nico Schepers, Ric Mol, trumpet; Jan Oosting, Louk Boudesteijn, Jan Bastiani, trombone; Martin van den Berg, bass trombone; Marcel Serierse, drums; Aram Kersbergen, bass; Peter Tiehuis, guitar; Hans Vroomans, piano.