Artist: Terry Adams
Album: Talk Thelonious
Release Date: 11/20/2015
Terry Adams, pianist and founding (and last remaining) member of the original New Rhythm and Blues Quartet, has had a pent-up desire to make a Thelonious Monk themed album for almost 50 years. Adams, together with the current NRBQ lineup and some additional musicians, delivers an almost completely live album of Adams’ own arrangements of Monk compositions, recorded at a show in Burlington, Vermont on April 5, 2012. The fact that it’s Monk being lauded is not a huge surprise, because NRBQ has long incorporated Monk tunes into their live gigs, and Adams contributed twice on the 1984 compilation That’s The Way I Feel Now: A Tribute To Thelonious Monk. What is absolutely stunning is that the album was done live with apparently very little rehearsal time, and that it features instruments that you would not associate with Monk, like pedal steel guitar, pipe organ and harmonica. This gives the record a refreshing quality, likely even more intriguing for those who are deeply familiar with Monk’s music.
Adams acknowledges that the challenge is bigger than mimicking Monk’s incomparably unique piano playing, which is daunting enough. He views it this way: “There’s an air about Monk’s music that I feel should go beyond the written parts. You can hear it on performances even when he is not playing. Some people don’t approach it that way. This music is in a special place, and the performer of it should be too.”
Let’s highlight some of the varying instrumentation as the album unfolds. It begins with “Reflections,” Terry Adams playing pipe organ at the beginning, then switching to piano as the rhythm section joins to give it a more recognizable jazz feel. Then, Terry switches back to pipe organ for the final minute or so of the track. “Hornin’ In” has some New Orleans accents, with the ever versatile Jim Hoke on alto and Klem Klimek on tenor saxophone. Scott Ligon adds wonderful guitar to “In Walked Bud,” and Hoke plays both chromatic harmonica and pedal steel on “Monk’s Mood.” “As Me Now” features just Adams on piano and Ligon on the B3. “Straight, No Chaser” is rendered in country rock mode, with Jim Hoke again on pedal steel and Scott Ligon on guitar. The closer, “Ruby, My Dear,” is the only studio track, and features a full string section with Hoke contributing on harmonica and flute. This album is a mind-blowing display of the brilliant musicianship of NRBQ and Adams’ highly imaginative arrangements.
– Jim Hynes