Review: Hat & Beard “Reflections” (TRP-018)
BY: Robert Iannapollo
Ken Aldcroft is another original guitarist. Based in Toronto he has been releasing recordings on his label Trio Recordings since the mid 90s in a variety of formats: solo, duo (including one with William Parker), trio and larger ensembles. Hat And Beard is Aldcroft's duo with drummer Dave Clark wherein they interpret the compositions of Thelonious Monk. Reflections is their second release and it's a tasty one.
It's hard to believe that at one time, the interpretation of Monk's music was reduced to a few tunes (Round Midnight, Straight, No Chaser etc.). It took deep exploration of his body of work by Steve Lacy (and to a lesser extent, Roswell Rudd) to show the gems to be mined. Now it's become almost a rite of passage for younger musicians to do all-Monk programs. Some are more interesting than others. Thankfully Hat And Beard falls on the more interesting side of the equation.
It was a good decision to explore this music with guitar and drums, stripping it down to its bare essence: linear, harmonic and rhythmic development. What makes this duo a success is that they don’t necessarily handle the material as expected. What’s most surprising is the almost punkish energy they bring to the music. A good part of this is due to Clark’s sometimes explosive drumming. From the opening of the album’s lead-off track , “Friday The Thirteenth” the listener can sense this is going to be something different. That is not to say that this duo is ignoring the vision of Monk. Aldcroft always seems mindful of the theme at hand. And on the title track (which is predominantly solo guitar with Clark entering toward the end) Aldcroft delivers a beautiful rendering of one of Monk’s loveliest melodies. It’s to their credit that the duo focuses on some of Monk’s lesser-known pieces in addition to a few classics. And it’s also to their credit that they’ve released two complete albums of Monk material and have managed to avoid the overplayed “Round Midnight”. And it’s to Monk’s credit that his material is open to a wide array of interpretations and can accommodate an energetic guitar/drums duo such as Hat and Beard.
CD review from Volume 40, No. 1: January issue
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