That’s T.S. as in Thelonious Sphere Jr., son of the pianist once called “the high priest of bebop.” But while Thelonious Monk had established himself in the jazz pantheon by his early 40s, T.S. Monk waited until that age to pull together this unimpeachable hard-bop sextet; he played with his famous father in the 70s but then branched off to form a hit R & B band before returning to jazz in 1991. T.S. Monk’s band has more going for it than most of the neoclassic combos led by younger lions, primarily the contributions of Don Sickler. An inventive and even charismatic trumpeter, Sickler is also a gifted arranger and something of a bop-era musicologist, and the band’s assured, authoritative direction bears his stamp as well as the leader’s. Funny thing, though–even on the several Monk compositions that dot the band’s repertoire, you won’t hear much of the father’s celebrated quirkiness. Monk pere delighted in using unexpected pauses, rhyming repetitions, and a rough, deceptively simple approach to the piano–a sort of antivirtuosic technique that few have managed to duplicate; his son’s band features players of prodigious and obvious technical skills, from the veteran pianist Ronnie Mathews to the forceful young tenor man Willie Williams. You can find that skill in Monk’s own drumming–at least when he drives the band, using a crisp, joyful shout also found in the work of Art Blakey (who played on Thelonious Monk’s early records). But in his own solos, you can hear the purposeful bounce and sly humor that constitute his truest inheritance. Tuesday through next Sunday, October 30, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Adrian Buckmaster.