1. Ask Me Now
4. Light Blue
5. Ruby, My Dear
7. Ugly Beauty
8. The Dancing Monk
9. 'Round Midnight
10. Blue Monk.
Eric Reed - Piano
Ben Wolfe - Bass
McClenty Hunter - Drums
Thelonious Monk was in some ways the unsung hero of bebop. Most commentators mention Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie as the godfathers of bebop but Monk added his own particular take to the revolution, pointing to new possibilities in jazz.
Pianist Eric Reed here plays nine of Monk's compositions plus one of his own (the title-track). In the sleeve-note, Eric admits a dilemma: how to play the music of someone as dstinctive as Thelonious whose "playing and writing are essentially one and the same". In other words, can you play Monk's music without copying his style? Eric's answer is: "I've taken some liberties with pieces from Monk's book to suit my own tastes, not only because I'm not him, but because it's simply what's expected".
The liberties that Eric Reed takes have the effect of smoothing out some of Thelonious' edginess. The album title of "The Dancing Monk" seems appropriate because Eric's versions of Monk tunes make them almost danceable, rather than the perversely jagged originals, many of which don't encourage dancing. Paradoxically, the track which sounds most like Monk is Reed's own composition, The Dancing Monk, although Reed has a more showy technique. And the drum solo on this track has the fractured feel of a Monk performance.
Tunes like Eronel and Pannonica are given an easy swing which is some way away from Monk's capriciousness. They are nonetheless interesting because Eric has the skill to ensure that his interpretations sound fresh. In slow numbers like Ruby, My Dear and Blue Monk, Reed emphasises the lyricism which is at the heart of the tunes. The bassist and drummer stay largely in the background and maintain a steady rhythm which differs from what drummers like Frankie Dunlop and Art Blakey supplied for Monk.
To sum up, this album is best approached on its own terms. You shouldn't expect a reproduction of the Thelonious Monk sound.