This release’s title, Heretic Monk, does aptly describe this trio’s delivery of tunes by, or recorded by the iconoclastic Thelonious Monk. We have become used to countless musicians selecting his tunes for dissection or slavish reproduction but they very rarely take the liberties Barber Mouse do here. Listeners can make up their own minds as to whether the very essence of Monk’s music is lost or whether this is an enhancement exercise.
Both pianist and bass player perform on “prepared” instruments. Perhaps a degree of distortion is to be expected but this is thankfully kept to a minimum, which begs the question as to why this tweaking was actually necessary.
For the most part the familiar themes take a while to emerge, at first being hinted at and only fully realised after some time. For instance, Epistrophy commences on a very oblique path, hardly suggesting any discernable reference to the Monk classic before eventually arriving in familiar territory. It’s followed by a meandering Ask Me Now which never quite gets into the Monkish arena.
Monk’s Dream is taken at a much faster lick than the composer could have envisaged. Irving Berlin’s All Alone suggests a more contemplative mood before the pianist takes it upon himself to inject some heavy-handed splashes. Lulu’s Back In Town gets a similarly irreverent treatment.
The trio clearly set out on a personal journey which is illustrated throughout – as already suggested, only the listener can decide whether this is a trip too far. Those who prefer unadulterated Monk might well shy away.
Carolina Moon; Epistrophy; Ask Me Now: Monk’s Dream; All Alone; Lulu’s Back In Town; Ugly Beauty; This Is My Story, This Is My Song; Friday The 13th (39.13)
Fabrizio Rat (prepared piano); Stefano Risso (prepared double bass); Mattia Barbiera (d, objects). Italy, 17 February 2011.