SFJAZZ celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thelonius Monk this week with performances by three fabulous jazz musicians – Danilo Pérez, Jason Moran and John Beasley. Considered one of America’s greatest composers, Monk was also regarded as one of the most creative pianists of any musical genre, who explained his distinctive style as “different”. “Everything I play is different,” he said, “different melody, different harmony, different structure. Each piece is different from the other. . . .”.
Panamanian pianist and composer Danilo Pérez opens the centennial celebrations with a program which blends the music of Monk with his own trademark Caribbean style and sound. This performance – with bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz – also marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Pérez’s own album Panamonk, described by AllMusic as “…… adventurous, rhythmic, and quite joyful. A memorable outing by the talented Danilo Pérez”. NPR says that as a composer and bandleader “he’s practically peerless”.
Jason Moran’s tribute to Thelonius Monk goes beyond a live presentation of the great man’s music. His program, entitled In My Mind, Monk at Town Hall, 1959, was an SFJAZZ co-commission which premiered in 2007. In it, Moran re-creates Monk’s 1959 big band concert at New York’s Town Hall, including video footage, still images and recordings from the documentary The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith. In this program, Moran – who has been described by The Los Angeles Times as “A startlingly gifted pianist with a relentless thirst for experimentation” – goes behind Monk’s music, delving into the history and creative process of the man who had such a significant influence on his own career.
The final performance in this celebratory triptych is John Beasley’s MONK’estra, the title of his album which features arrangements of the music of Thelonius Monk influenced by the sound of New Orleans, hip-hop, and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Writing for the International Review of Music, Don Heckman referred to Beasley’s arrangements as “some of the most mesmerizing big band music of recent memory”. Grammy-nominated Beasley – who appears with a 15-piece big band orchestra – is regarded as one of the most versatile musicians in jazz, and is known for his expertise as a bandleader, keyboardist and composer, as well as an arranger for music projects, film and television.
Danilo Pérez, Jason Moran and John Beasley appear in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ on October 13th, 14th and 15th respectively. For some fascinating background information on these artists, and to buy tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.