Portraits of Thelonious Monk

Randy Weston’s new album, Portraits of Thelonious Monk, recorded last year in Paris, is a deeply personal tribute to Monk. Weston has always favored bassists with a huge ringing sound and drummers who have a powerful backbeat, but this time he adds an African percussionist, underscoring a charged rhythmic approach to the material. It’s as though he dissected the familiar Monk themes down to their metric skeletons — on ”Well You Needn’t,” he doesn’t even state the melody until the end of the performance. Your response will depend on how much you like bass and drums, because Weston — notwithstanding a solo piano rendering of ”Off Minor” and a superb slow blues, ”Functional” — has reduced his own role to that of conductor in a four-man rhythm machine. The effort is not entirely successful, but it’s different and sometimes exhilarating. Incidentally, the liner notes say Monk was the first black musician featured on the cover of Time; not so — Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington got there first. B

Portraits of Thelonious Monk
  • Music