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Thursday February 25

HAPPY BIRTHDAY EDDIE BELLIS

Postage

12,535 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 254 of them this year alone and, so far, 105 this month (Feb. 24).

Saturday, February 15, 2020

What to Expect – Except Brilliant? Graeme Wilson and Paul Edis play the music of Monk @ The Lit & Phil, Newcastle – Feb. 14.

Graeme Wilson (tenor sax); Paul Edis (piano)
(Review by Jerry)

Fifteen years ago I knew the name, Thelonius Monk, but little else. I was intrigued by an early Edis composition, I Wish I Were a Monk, from which I learned that this is very distinctive music which never fails to elicit strong audience response. In my case, it always made me smile. When I first heard Paul playing ‘Round Midnight, I realised that I knew one of Monk’s tunes but could not have told you that. Zoë Gilby’s excellent show, Pannonica, progressed my learning curve somewhat but as of this morning (I checked!) I still only needed the fingers of one hand to list the Monk titles I could remember. None of my memorable five were on today’s programme so I had no idea what to expect – except that, having often seen these two musicians over the same fifteen-year period, it would be brilliantly played.

My ignorance of the set-list is partly excused by the fact that Messrs. Edis and Wilson had deliberately chosen to record (see Russell’s review from Feb 11) and to play here, tunes by Monk which are less well-known and seldom performed. Wilson quipped that for some of Monk’s 72 compositions you could see why they were seldom performed! That did not apply to any of today’s ten numbers all of which were memorable enough for me, now, to need the fingers of the other hand plus a set of toes!

I will try not to duplicate Russell’s comments – I have to acknowledge the superior wisdom of one who can even whistle Monk tunes never mind merely reciting the titles – but here are some random observations. Watching a live performance so close that one can see the hands on the keyboard and the fingers on the sax emphasises the complexity of the music and the dexterity of the players as well as revealing the almost intuitive closeness they have developed over the years which enables them to synchronise helter-skelter stuff such as Four in One or Trinkle Tinkle. After the latter, Edis commented to the audience that it was tough to play on piano but harder still on sax so extra applause for Graeme Wilson on that one. Going off on a tangent, I really enjoyed the varied endings to today’s ten tunes: is that down to Monk as composer or to our musicians?

I had to wonder why Monk put the “ugly” in Ugly Beauty – a dreamy, melodic number which, along with Jackie-ing and Monk’s Mood, showed that our musicians were just as good interpreting the slower tunes as well as the more quirky and quixotic ones. Their opening for San Fransisco Holiday (Worry Later) had Edis with his head in the piano as if to smash it (as one of Pannonica’s guests thought Monk was doing) and Wilson making extraordinary clicking noises with his sax: this was to attempt to replicate the drummer’s opening on the original recording. It certainly got the attention of the audience! Hornin’ In contained more of what my scribbled notes recorded as “crazy stuff” (in an entirely good way) and ended with trilling piano and vibrato sax which took me back to my original reaction to that tribute piece of Paul’s – great amusement.

The entire audience (85 Monk fans, no less) was amused and richly entertained right through to the growling sax and wonderful stride piano of Epistrophy – a tune which, apparently, I ought to have known as it was always Monk’s closing number.
The album, Big as a Mountain, Small as a Pin is available to stream and download from Itunes, Apple Music, Spotify etc. On the evidence of this gig, it is highly recommended.
Jerry

1 comment :

Pam Young (on F/b) said...

We weren't disappointed, it truly was brilliant. Thank you Paul and Graeme 🎶

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