Over time I’ve found that the genius of the singular compositional style of Thelonious Monk manifests itself better the further away it is played from its original bebop context. Jerry Granelli demonstrated this so flamboyantly when he and his dual electric guitar UFB band had the gumption to take on “Brilliant Corners,” and proved how Monk’s method can be applied so well to rock fusion with this modernized, electrified version of the song.
Now comes along pianist Hiroe Sekine to do something similar with Thelonious’ “Evidence,” the tune that ends her upcoming sophomore long player After The Rainfall. What I admired so much about Sekine’s first album A-mé (2010) was her fresh, contemporary reworkings of familiar songs that I probably could go the rest of my life not having to hear again. However, she has such a knack for arranging and reharmonizing them just so that you can recognize the song, but it feels like a whole new song. Like a nicely restored classic car.
That’s what she did with “Evidence.” Chucking the piano for a percussive, Rhodes-ish electric keyboard, the bass also goes electric (Jimmy Johnson) and Larry Koonse’s guitar is most definitely in a rock state of mind. To handle these ever-shifting rhythms you need a real pro behind the drum kit. Enter Peter Erskine.
The eccentric thematic progression — is there any other way to describe a Monk theme? — places notes in the wrong spots, which is to say, it’s just how the composer would do it. Sekine and Koonse are the focal points on the song, playing in unison, harmony and comping behind the other when they solo. The coaction between the two is the interesting twist on the original, as they move from the head to a more contemporary blues figure and back again to the head and concluding with a groove that seems to spin naturally from Monk’s mangled strain.
There can be a lot of artistry and creativity involved in recycling old tunes. This version of “Evidence” does well to show off the artistry of both Thelonious Monk and Hiroe Sekine alike.
After The Rainfall releases March 20, by Sekai Music.
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