Bobby Broom, joined by Dennis Carroll (bass) and Kobi Watkins (drums), plays eight Thelonious Monk compositions in this guitar trio take on the great pianist's music.
Jazz musicians have never found it easy to capture the wonder and the eccentricity of Monk's music in any terms other than his own. Yet that has not stopped generations of players from taking on this challenge, so pervasive is his influence as one of the initiators of bop. Many, if not all, sax players of note have made the attempt. It is rarer for guitarists to try ? Peter Bernstein is a notable recent example. The danger is that the limitations posed by the instrument will dominate and lead to a sanitized version of the great man's music.
"Plays For Monk" succeeds despite these potential limitations. Bobby Broom's approach is laid back in a way that Monk, the troubled genius, could never have been. Yet there are many stand out tracks where the transformation to the six string instrument works very well.
"Evidence" (loosely based on the Greer/Klages song "Just You, Just Me"), "In Walked Bud" (written for pianist Bud Powell and based on the chord changes for Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies") and "Work" (rarely played by Thelonious Monk but recorded by him with Sonny Rollins in 1953) are all uptempo and deliver well.
Interestingly. "Rhythm-A-Ning" (based on the chord changes of George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm"), may have started life in the hands of jazz guitar pioneer Charlie Christian with whom Monk played in the 'forties, so Bobby Broom's taking this back to guitar is not only successful but has a deeper validity.
"Bemsha Swing" does just that with the trio stretching out impressively.
It is more difficult to get as much mileage out of the slower ballads. "Ask Me Now", "Ruby My Dear" and "Reflections" shade towards late night jazz. Of the two non-Monk tunes, Harry Warren's "Lulu's Back In Town" (performed extensively by Monk, however) gets into a tight groove, while the Jerome Kern standard "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", played solo, returns very much to an after hours experience.
Overall, an enjoyable new slant on the great man's music by a rising jazz guitar talent.