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In Monk's Mood

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Album Review

John Tchicai has long been devoted to avant-garde jazz, having played with Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, and Pierre Dørge's New Jungle Orchestra, plus extensively recording as a leader. This session is a bit of a twist, as producer Nils Winther responded to Tchicai's interest in recording once more for Steeplechase by suggesting that he switch back from tenor to alto, while also devoting most of his program to the music of Thelonious Monk. While this might seem restrictive to most artists, Tchicai flourished in this setting, borrowing his wife's instrument and quickly finding common ground with veterans Steve LaSpina (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums) and the fast-rising younger pianist George Colligan. While songbook-type CDs often come off as tepid affairs, Tchicai's staccato approach to the alto and his way of often extending its range to where it sounds much like a soprano gives this predominately ballad collection a very fresh sound. Of particular interest is the leader's choice of relative obscurities like “Coming on the Hudson" and “Light Blue." The CD opens and closes with “Monk's Mood," the opener with the full band and the finale (which was actually recorded first) omitting Drummond, both of which feature Colligan on a Hammond organ that happened to be available in the recording studio. Tchicai also adds two originals to the mix, the free jazz vehicle “Cool Copy" and a loose reworking of Monk's “Ask Me Now," titled “Ask Him Now." While this session may not be as free-form as many Tchicai fans would prefer, it is very valuable music and proves to be an excellent introduction to those who might not already be familiar with this veteran's recorded output.


Born: April 28, 1936 in Copenhagen, Denmark

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Saxophonist John Tchicai was best known for his time in New York during the height of the '60s free jazz explosion, but he actually spent the majority of his career advancing the cause of avant-garde jazz in Northern Europe. Tchicai was born April 28, 1936, in Copenhagen to a Danish mother and Congolese father; he began playing violin at age ten, switched to both clarinet and alto sax at 16, and focused on the latter at Denmark's Conservatory of Music. In the late '50s, Tchicai began making the rounds...
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In Monk's Mood, John Tchicai
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