Thelonious Monk's posthumous rise into the pantheon of great American composers continues with two solo recordings of his complete works.
Albums by pianist Jed Distler and guitarist Miles Okazaki are the first solo renditions of Monk's oeuvre, the latest homage to the troubled jazz genius, as reported by New York Times jazz critic Giovanni Russonello.
Rivaling Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, Monk is known even by those who are not jazz fans. His compositions are frequently performed by a new generation of musicians, as his own albums keep getting rediscovered. While setting standards for jazz, his music transcends the genre.
Distler told Russonello that Monk might have disliked Distler's reinterpretations of his pieces. Russonello finds that Distler succeeds in his changes, and surmises that the master would have been pleased.
While Distler might have pushed the boundaries, Okazaki's "Work: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Monk" excite me more. The piano was Monk's instrument, so Distler with all his fresh interpretations stays on Monk's territory. Guitar arrangements of Monk's work are truly ground-breaking.
Russonello singles out one of Okazaki's numbers, in which he plays single notes without chords. That's the kind of creative inventiveness that Monk also would have appreciated.
I'll look forward to comparing Distler and Okazaki's recordings, anticipating that the Village Vanguard or some other venue will bring Distler and Okazaki together for a shared live performance.