There's something almost contradictory about Monk compositions: they're insistently individualistic, built on odd chord changes with often minimalist melodies. But as idiosyncratic as they are, they often succeed in bringing out what's best in the musicians playing them, as if those tunes are open to individuality as well as being the product of it. Through the years musicians of wildly divergent styles have approached Monk's music: the piquant Steve Lacy, exuberant Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, amiably bombastic Misha Mengelberg and magisterial Coleman Hawkins. These two trips into the Monk canon may not produce results as distinctive as any of those but they're solid efforts possessed of substantial personality.
Guitarist Bobby Broom is likely best known for his supporting role in the band of Sonny Rollins, a direct link to Monk's most creative years. There's a lot of blues in Broom's approach?he's led an organ trio?and it deliberately picks up on the iconography of Monk's Riverside years. The cover art features a red wagon, recalling the cover art of Monk's Music, but more than that there's the style. Broom's bluesy, linear approach to Monk inevitably suggests another generation of guitarists like Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. There's also a real emphasis on swing. Broom's spare trio with bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Kobie Watkins goes to the rhythmic core of Monk's music, producing effervescent momentum on tunes like "Evidence," "In Walked Bud," "Rhythm-a-ning" and "Bemsha Swing" and warm balladry on "Ruby, My Dear" and "Smoke Gets in your Eyes". That easy swing may suggest the relaxed confidence of Monk's Columbia years as well, but Broom has done a fine job of adapting Monk's music to his own musical personality and vice versa.