Harmolodic Monk (UR9953)
Emblematic of bebop, growing out of stride piano playing including ragtime styles, Thelonious Monk is a jazz legend, a prolific composer and improviser of the highest level. He remains, in fact, a continual source of inspiration.
How do we then distinguish from the various tributes to his glory? Lavelle and Pietaro have the solution, applying Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodic theory to this music.
Explaining this seeming arcane musical vision is the challenge. It consists of a fusion of harmony and melody in a polyphony sans the usual constrictions. In a free jazz approach, this allows for more than one musician playing the same melody but starting at different pitches, so tonality per-se doesn’t govern the music but instead tones, rhythm, melody, tempo are all equal, which Ornette calls unison.
And what could be more natural than to see multi-instrumentalist Matt Lavelle present in this project? It is indeed his time with Ornette Coleman, which makes him all the more legitimate to carry this adventure. Playing in turn cornet, flugelhorn, pocket trumpet and alto clarinet, Lavelle is joined by John Pietaro on vibes, congas, percussion and the Irish drum known as the bodhran.
Ambitious and promising …
Epistrophy: The spooky atmosphere gives us a glimpse of this concept as Lavelle holds the melody from the top of his clarinet and Pietaro digresses nicely with percussion, together forming an inseparable whole. Captivating, enhanced by mic’ing closer to the instrumentalists. This complex piece is
tamed for us and all its subtlety is revealed.
Pannonica follows this line, with a more digressive Lavelle, though again in a harmonious musical symbiosis. Green Chimneys brings color to the music, thanks to almost tribal percussion followed by a warm flugelhorn at every turn.
Round Midnight is also fascinating with the first vibraphone alone,
suspending the time for three minutes, seemingly more traditional yet still so ethereal. A no less excellent version of a Monk title is Crepuscule With Nellie featuring a break in improvisation that is close enough to the original to be sobering. Lavelle grants himself the right to play solo, shattering everything with musical brilliance. If Monk fans are skeptical of the ownership
of these titles, this should settle them!
Ruby My Dear has the same relevance to original melody, but this time it’s Pietaro’s vibraphone. Equally adept, he repeats the feat by remaining close to the original while applying the theory of harmolodics solo! The result is even more convincing! Let’s Cool One is somewhat less powerful in its rendering, needing a more striking arrival.
Due to its length (nearly 10 minutes), Blue Monk is the most difficult of pieces to grasp. With Lavelle resolutely putting free jazz forward, some listeners may want to leave it on the side of the road on the way. However, if one perseveres, the experience is truly rich and powerful.
The most whimsical moment arrives with Monk’s Mood. With his famous bodhran, Pietaro breathes a different atmosphere into the proceedings, a world music approach, differently from Lavelle is doing. Pietaro plays his instrument fiercely, playing each breath to emit sounds that are amazingly refreshing and gratifying! In Walked Bud closes the album as it began, a harmolodic replica. A beautiful finale.
The bet was risky but it pays off: The formation of a charismatic duo – Lavelle and Pietaro keep their original commitment.
Sublimely produced by Jack DeSalvo, HARMOLODIC MONK is a beautiful album. Monk fans may not appreciate everything, but that’s what makes it so much than just a tribute
Since it may be difficult to approach for the uninitiated it deserves a good
listening because the effort is worth the reward.Though a tad long it lacks nothing in inspiration to keep us constantly surprised. You’ll enjoy a great experience finding out!
– Axel Scheyder