Free Jazz (freejazz-stef.blogspot.com), Feb 2012
Review: Ken Aldcroft & Dave Clark - Hat & Beard /The Music Of Thelonious Monk (Trio Recordings, 2011)
BY: Paul Acquaro, Free Jazz
Hat & Beard's album 'Live at Somewhere There' is a joyful romp through the Thelonious Monk song book. Each tune is lovingly delivered to what sounds like an audience of five, which simply adds to the recording's intimate private concert atmosphere.
Taking their duo's name from Eric Dolphy's tribute to Monk, guitarist Ken Aldcroft and percussionist Dave Clark deliver an impassioned set. The spare instrumentation gives each note and beat intense focus, and for this music, it's a perfect setting. The emotion of the players comes through clearly, emphases, syncopations and variations in volume and texture become just as meaningful as the notes. Clark is more a conversationalist than a rhythm section and Aldcroft doesn't overplay to fill the space between them either -- what isn't there is just as important as what is.
The opening tune '52nd Street Theme' kicks things off with high energy and lays out the agenda for the program of music to follow. Both precise and somewhat (purposefully) chaotic melodic leads lay atop the vibrant percussion, tonal clusters and notes pop up unexpectedly. A big crescendo and pounding percussion during 'Green Chimneys' juxtaposes the well known jaunty melody with a quiet ending. 'Nutty's' quirky melody is given a more standard chord/melody treatment until the toys start coming out ... I'll say no more about that. I'm cherry picking just a couple examples here because each song is engaging and enjoyable in its own way, showcasing an empathetic musical partnership.
My only critical comment is that though the amount of variation they get is inspiring, at times the instrumentation feels a little limited. However, the playing and arrangements are so engaging that it's a minor issue. This is an enjoyable recording and one I'm glad to have stumbled upon.