Laurent de Wilde ‘New Monk Trio’ (Gazebo) 4/5

In this year of tributes to Thelonius Monk, the name of French pianist Laurent de Wilde occupies a special place because not only is he a long-term devotee of Monk, but he has also written a highly innovative book on him. What impresses here is that de Wilde knows the music of Monk inside out and uses that knowledge base as the stepping stone to revisiting some of the classic compositions and infusing them with his own mark, and that makes for some highly entertaining re-workings of the standards. This is most certainly the case of ‘Round Midnight’, which is performed here at an entirely different tempo. First of all, the bass line operates in modal mode and there is a build up of tension on drums and the leader deploying the inside of the piano to create a unique sound. Then, the music suddenly gains in intensity and the trio collectively go up several gears. This is a lovely departure from the usual interpretations, and is both well thought and executed. Elsewhere, de Wilde similarly recreates on well known pieces such as, ‘Monk’s Mood’, ‘Pannonica’, and ‘Four In One’. In places, there is a sparseness to the approach that is appealing, with an apparent simplicity and repetition of the piano, with bass and drums working in tandem, before the pianist eventually opens up and adds his own personal touch. Best of all, is a lovely, flowing interpretation of ‘Coming On The Hudson’, which is a fast-paced waltz, with de Wilde at his most refined. A fine individual tribute and one that Monk would surely have approved of. Monk à la française? Mais si.

Tim Stenhouse