Jazz  Big Band
Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble Elegy For Theolonious SSC1716 CD
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FormatAudio CD
Ordering NumberSSC1716
labelSunnyside Records
Release date08/03/2024
  • Adam Kolker: woodwinds
  • Andrew Hadro: woodwinds
  • Brian Drye: trombones
  • Carlberg, Frank: conductor, composer
  • Chris Washburne: trombones
  • David Adewumi: trumpets, flugelhorns
  • Hery Paz: woodwinds
  • John Carlson: trumpets, flugelhorns
  • Kim Cass: bass
  • Knuffke, Kirk: trumpets, flugelhorns
  • Leo Genovese: piano, keyboards
  • Max Seigel: trombones
  • Michael Sarin: drums
  • Nathan Reising: woodwinds
  • Sam Hoyt: trumpets, flugelhorns
  • Tyler Bonilla: trombones
  • Udden, Jeremy: woodwinds
Guest musician
  • Christine Correa: voice (1, 3, 4) (Tracks Nr 1, 3, 4)
  • Priya Carlberg: voice (2, 3, 4) (Tracks Nr 2, 3, 4)
Tags: jazz

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      Description hide

      Frank Carlberg has explored the music of Thelonious Sphere Monk in many contexts: as a seasoned and highly acclaimed pianist, noted for his work in duo, trio and other small groups, but also as leader and orchestrator of an adventurous large ensemble. His 2017 release Monk Dreams, Hallucinations and Nightmares was big-band Monk in all its glory, rated five stars in DownBeat and hailed as “stunning and original” by The Buffalo News. Carlberg played piano on the earlier date, which had J.C. Sanford conducting. But on the new Elegy for Thelonious, Carlberg takes up the baton and does not play, leaving that to the brilliant Leo Genovese (of Esperanza Spalding renown, effortlessly at home in mainstream and avant-garde jazz settings).

      With a rich blend of winds and brass, and a solid, inventive rhythm section with bassist Kim Cass and drummer Michael Sarin, Carlberg approaches the Monk canon from his own compositional standpoint, borrowing or transforming what he calls melodic “cells and splinters,” re-composing or even merging different songs into new entities, with formal, improvisational and sonic results that are immediately gripping.

      “Thelonious Monk remains as vital and relevant as ever,” says Carlberg, “and we are very happy to share this offering inspired by the Master and created through our personal prism. Monk’s way opened up the way for so many others, not through imitation but through inspiration. With Elegy for Thelonious I want to celebrate the profound impact he has had on me personally as well as on so many others.”

      The album opens with “Spooky Rift We Pat,” an anagram and quasi-mashup of “Tea for Two” and “Skippy,” with incredibly hip saxophone soli writing, solo turns from tenorist Adam Kolker and trumpeter David Adewumi, and vocal ruminations by Carlberg’s longtime creative associate Christine Correa. (Carlberg’s “Two for Tea,” from his 2010 Tivoli Trio album, provides something of a precedent.) Some pieces are fairly abstracted from their sources, such as “Wrinkle on Trinkle” (after “Trinkle Tinkle”), “Out of Steam” (after “Locomotive”) and “Scallop’s Scallop,” which “inhabits a parallel reality to ‘Gallop’s Gallop,’” writes Carlberg in his album notes. Others have more identifiable elements, such as the closing “Brake Tune” based on Monk’s unusual gem “Brake’s Sake.” Solos are by Hery Paz on tenor sax and Genovese on synth. “Leo is a dear old friend and I love his playing,” Carlberg says. “He makes different musical decisions than I would in the moment, and I love that.”

      On the album’s centerpiece and title track, we hear a convergence of many elements. Correa recites lines from a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa. She also harmonizes with fellow vocalist Priya Carlberg on what the leader calls “a celebratory statement, full of joy and gratitude” referencing the hymn “Abide With Me,” which led off the 1957 stone classic Monk’s Music (it happens to have been composed by a William H. Monk). There are also urgently expressive solos by trombonist Brian Drye, cornetist Kirk Knuffke and saxophonist Jeremy Udden, playing the outrageous-sounding Lyricon (a ’70s version of what became the EWI). The vocalists pair up as well on the somewhat foreboding “Wanting More” (“always leave them wanting more,” Monk once said), a piece that gives free rein to the masterful John Carlson on trumpet.

      “I’ve chosen the various soloists specifically for each piece,” says Carlberg. “I want to highlight their strengths and personalities. Although many things are very specifically written and need to be performed a certain way, I also always welcome the special contributions that each musician brings to the work. I am moved and grateful how they all put their hearts and souls into this project!”

      A native of Finland, Carlberg explored Monk in depth on Shadows and Reflections, his 2015 duo album with Leo Genovese. He played “Round Midnight” with Ran Blake on the 2020 two-piano duo album Gray Moon. His work with Latin GRAMMY-winning artist Roxana Amed on Los Trabajos Y Las Noches and La Sombra de Su Sombra has garnered wide acclaim, as have his duo projects with Noah Preminger (Whispers and Cries) and Gabriel Bolaños (Charity and Love). His Word Circus quintet, featuring Christine Correa and Michael Sarin with John O’Gallagher and Pascal Niggenkemper, has released the eponymous Word Circus as well as NO MONEY IN ART. Carlberg has also performed with the likes of Steve Lacy, Kenny Wheeler and Bob Brookmeyer. He serves on the faculty of New England Conservatory, where he directs the NEC Jazz Composers Workshop Ensemble, allowing student composers to hear their works for large jazz orchestra realized in live performance.

      Tracklist hide

      CD 1
      • 1.Spooky Rift We Pat09:46
      • 2.Out of Steam07:15
      • 3.Wanting More06:15
      • 4.Elegy For Thelonious11:06
      • 5.Scallop's Scallop07:15
      • 6.Wrinkle On Trinkle08:30
      • 7.Brake Tune09:32
      • Total:59:39