Eric Reed ‘The adventurous Monk’ (Savant) 3/5

eric-reedFormerly part of the 1990s Wynton Marsalis band, pianist Eric Reed has, for two decades, been a solo artist and in recent years has devoted several projects to showcasing the music of Thelonius Monk, arguably that most individual of all jazz pianists. Each of the individual Monk projects has featured different line-ups. For the latest of these, the leader has recreated the classic Monk quartet sound, enlisting some of the young turcs on the New York scene and including the excellent Seamus Blake on tenor saxophone who veers between the clinical approach of Charlie Rouse and the sensitive warmth of Hank Mobley, Ben Williams on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums. An all-Monk composition set covers familiar territory with a notable departure being the vocal interpretation of the classic re-titled ‘Dear Ruby (Ruby, my dear)’ with guest vocals courtesy of Clarence Wade. The quartet sound most alike 1960s Monk on ‘Work’ and this features an extended solo from Reed whose piano rolls are far more fluid than the staccato signature of Monk himself. An all too brief reworking of ‘Thelonius’ is undertaken by the rhythm section with Blake entering only in the latter stages while the trio perform throughout on ‘Reflections’ where Reed is at his most Monkesque in conveying the idiosyncratic hues of the great composer. While it is, perhaps, questionable whether Eric Reed would not be better served devoting more time to his own compositions, in its own right, this ongoing study of the Monk repertoire is sufficiently enticing to keep the listener guessing and he is a fine pianist in his own right notwithstanding Monk homages.

Tim Stenhouse