New York City Jazz Record
Review: Hat & Beard "Reflections" (TRP-018)
BY: Donald Elfman

Thelonious Monk is certainly part of the jazz canon and yet it's surprising how few of his tunes are tackled and how the ones that are stay close to a kind of accepted approach. Guitarist Ken Aldcroft and drummer Dave Clark take on the Monk repertoire and vocabulary with flair, great humor and in short takes - the longest track is five minutes long!

The subversion starts immediately. Clark opens "Friday the Thirteenth" with some noisy and busy drum business but out comes a hard-edged but faithful reading of the melody by Aldcroft. The music moves forcefully until Clark dramatically drops the volume momentarily, giving Aldcroft a while to repeat, Zenlike, the 'simple' melodic line. "Work" emerges immediately, Aldcroft bending notes and goading Clark to a series of drum shots, which sound chaotic at first, but ultimately present a new logic. The textures and colors change throughout but we're never really very far from Mr. Hat and Beard himself. Both players have chops but use them to find new ways to approach a historic set of compositions.

The title tune is a surprise in yet another way. It begins with Aldcroft playing this most engaging melody sweetly and reflectively to very spare drums. Itís the closest thing to a conventional reading. The guitar solo opens up - but just slightly - and lets this elegant tune ring its own wonderful changes.

Though the overall effect seems clamorous, most tunes take on a kind of intimate new coloring, even when Clark is bashing away and Aldcroft is in power mode. The two smoke a two-and-a half-minute "Off Minor", get down and dirty with "Five Spot Blues", offer an intimate new tribute to Baroness "Pannonica" and go to the parade ground with "Jackie-ing". The album closes with a pointillistic take on the rarely done "Boo Booís Birthday" and then a strange - what else - drum intro to a vague yet substantive "Monkís Dream". You havenít heard Monk like this before.