John Beasley Music

‘’MONK’estra, Vol. 1 is a masterpiece that uniquely defies conventional interpretations of Monk’s music. The recording deftly indicates John Beasley’s virtuosity as a re- arranger of the groove-centric, swinging, contemporary harmonies that emanated from Monk’s jazz.” 

–Sounds Of Timeless Jazz

“John Beasley’s MONK’estra Reinvents Thelonious Monk for the 21st Century”

LA Weekly

LINER NOTES:

If one were to have access to a time machine and could go back to see legendary bandleader Thelonious Monk in concert during the 1950s and ‘60s, you’d likely see him so compelled by the music that he would retreat from his piano mid-performance and conduct his band, no matter how small or large, through an impassioned dance. But behind the joyous dance that overtook the stage lay the societal struggles a jazz musician endured to present that 90 minutes of musical freedom – a tale of police harassment, systemic oppression and constant battles for equality. Fast forward to 2017 and composer-arranger-pianist John Beasley is using Monk’s spontaneous movements and experiences as the basis for conducting radically reconceived versions of the late composer’s music for his critically acclaimed big band project: MONK’estra

Credits

1. Brake’s Sake feat. Dontae Winslow
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
solo: Dontae Winslow – trumpet and rap
trumpets: Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, James Ford, Brian Swartz
woodwinds: Bob Sheppard, Danny Janklow, Tom Luer

2. Played Twice
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
solos: Ben Shepherd – bass; Bob Sheppard – soprano saxophone
trumpets: Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, James Ford, Brian Swartz
woodwinds: Bob Sheppard, Danny Janklow, Tom Luer

3. Crepuscule With Nellie
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
guest appearance by Regina Carter – violin
trumpets: Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, James Ford, Brian Swartz
woodwinds: Bob Sheppard, Danny Janklow, Tom Luer

4. Evidence
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
guest appearances by Kamasi Washington – tenor saxophone; Conrad Herwig – trombone
solo: Ben Shepherd – bass, trumpet: Brandyn Philips
woodwinds: Thomas Peterson, Adam Schroeder, Alex Budman

5. Ugly Beauty/Pannonica
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
solo: Francisco Torres – trombone
trumpets: Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, James Ford, Brian Swartz
woodwinds: Bob Sheppard, Danny Janklow, Tom Luer

6. I Mean You
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
solos: Danny Janklow – alto saxophone; Brian Swartz – trumpet; Adam Schroeder – baritone saxophone
trumpets: Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, James Ford, Brian Swartz
woodwinds: Bob Sheppard, Danny Janklow, Tom Luer

7. Light Blue
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
solos: Brian Swartz – trumpet; John Beasley – organ
trumpets: Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, James Ford, Brian Swartz
woodwinds: Bob Sheppard, Danny Janklow, Tom Luer
drums: Gene Coye

8. Dear Ruby
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
guest appearance by Dianne Reeves – vocals,t rumpet: Brandyn Philips
woodwinds: Thomas Peterson, Adam Schroeder, Alex Budman

9. Criss Cross
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
guest appearance by Pedrito Martinez – conga and bata
solos: Tom Luer – tenor saxophone; John Beasley – piano
trumpets: Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, James Ford, Brian Swartz
woodwinds: Bob Sheppard, Danny Janklow, Tom Luer

10. Work
piano, synthesizer: John Beasley
acoustic and electric bass: Ben Shepherd
drums: Terreon Gully
solo: Ryan Dragon – trombone
trumpets: Bijon Watson, Jamie Hovorka, James Ford, Brian Swartz
woodwinds: Bob Sheppard, Danny Janklow, Tom Luer

Downbeat — 4.5/5 stars (October 2017)

“In the Monastic One’s centennial year, pianist John Beasley hits us dead center with studio-smart takes on Monk’s deep book. His new album features rapid-fire surprises, spiky asides and a quirky sense of truthful swing.”

The New York Times

“with his 16-piece band, Mr. Beasley laces 10 of those crooked themes into funky, often­-Caribbean rhythms, pulling them into today and back to a taproot. Mr. Beasley is himself a mutable pianist and crafty arranger, and this album — like the first volume — carves up and dissects Monk’s famous bebop melodies. …the conversation gets special on Mr. Beasley’s rambunctious solo.”

The Atlantic

“John Beasley’s Monk’estra, a follow-up to last year’s Grammy nominee. Beasley and band swing through and often revamp Monk tunes. The trumpeter Dontae Winslow raps over a breakbeat–enhanced “Brake’s Sake,” “I Mean You” turns into a funk jam, and Regina Carter’s violin makes “Crepuscule With Nellie” somehow even more noirish.

Financial Times — 4 stars

“…hip-hop merges with swing and sensuous Ellingtonia sits on a sparse contemporary pulse. Impressively, the balance between surprise, subtlety and heft is just right.”

The Arts Fuse

“His orchestrations are always fascinating, the performances both precise and relaxed. Beasley doesn’t tame Monk or make him uncharacteristically pretty. (One of the compositions on Volume 2 is “Ugly Beauty.”) He’s deferential, but also innovative in sharp ways that Monk fans, and fans of big band music, should appreciate. Volume 2′s session is vividly recorded. It’s Monk and it’s not. He seems to be pointing out things in Monk that we hadn’t previously noticed.

Straight No Chaser

“A master arranger, Beasley put together a who’s who of musicians to turn the Thelonius Monk library of tunes into something more innovative and thought provoking than they had been in years. MONK’estra, Volume Two is here, and it was well worth the wait. …this is an album that rewards a careful listener at every turn.”

Hot House, NY

“A perfect example of this musical creativity is “Crepuscule with Nellie,” a haunting ballad brought to life. Some of the most creative re-imaginings of Thelonious Monk music here come from John’s addition of rhythms and time signatures not found on the originals. It turns a lesser known composition [Brake’s Sake] into a compelling contemporary protest anthem. MONK’estra’s renditions of Thelonious’ tunes bring new insights about them and appreciation for them.”

New York City Jazz Record

“This is a big, ambitious endeavor, but one that Beasley and his MONK’estra colleagues pull off with panache, serving notice that 100 years after his birth, the music of Thelonious Monk is alive and well. Beasley is back for a second set of radically reimagined big-band readings of Thelonious Monk compositions. Beasley refuses to settle for mere by-the-numbers remakes of historic material.”

San Diego Tribune

“The 11-song album features Beasley’s ingenious arrangements…one of the most acclaimed big bands currently performing.”

Drumhead, UK

“MONK’estra, Vol 2 which masterfully applies a rich orchestral palette across an array of modern infectious rhythms, while discovering new dimensions of the classic compositions that emerge directly from their deepest jazz roots.”