It’s an often-told legend that Miles Davis had particular trouble in nailing Thelonious Monk’s ’Round Midnight. Time and time again he would come off stage to ask Monk what he thought of his playing, only to be told by the pianist – notoriously stubborn as he was – that he “didn’t play it right”.
One then wonders what The High Priest of Bop would have had to say about pianist Stefano Travaglini’s “fifteen piano reflections”. With these arrangements, Travaglini paints in broad strokes his picture of Monk, taking the music out of its traditional and familiar setting and doing away with Monk’s unique percussive style in order to examine the compositions as “pure music”.
Travaglini’s own rendition of ’Round Midnight has nothing of the jaunty swing or hammered dissonance of the original. At times it’s almost unrecognisable as the melody ebbs and flows throughout improvised passages.
This is the case with many of his arrangements. Popular favourites such as Straight No Chaser, Monk’s Dream and In Walked Bud are all reworked according to Travaglini’s own free-flowing, classical-inflected style.
Often his hands will seem to work independently of each other, the left laying down a wandering bass line while the right – often inverting familiar rhythms into something new – improvises on top.
Die-hard Thelonious Monk fans might not appreciate the liberties Stefano Travaglini has taken. However, Monk’s music has been studied to no end. Interpretations and reinterpretations of his compositions are far from a rare commodity, and Travaglini has found a way to present something original and interesting here.
Hear/buy Stefano Travaglini: Monk at stefanotravaglini.bandcamp.com/album/monk
Trinkle Tinkle; Children’s Song; Well, You Needn’t; Ruby, My Dear; Criss Cross; Straight No Chaser; Ugly Beauty; Bemsha Swing; Round Midnight; Monk’s Dream; Introspection; Evidence; Brilliant; Brilliant Corners; Misterioso; In Walked Bud (61.51)
Travaglini (p). Studio Sequenza, Paris, 5 May 2019.
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