Monk Inc - Propensity (3 stars)

Monk Inc - Propensity

(Comuse Recordings)

As the band’s name suggests, this is a project dedicated to the singular music of pianist Thelonious Monk from a young UK-based quintet. The first thing that catches attention even before playing the album is that the line-up is conspicuously lacking Monk’s own instrument. Trumpeter Ben Higham and saxophonist Simon Youngman are joined by Mark Read on bass trumpet and tuba, Ivars Galanieks on double bass, and drummer Geoff Charlton.

Higham and Youngman have explored the work of Monk before, as well as fellow US iconoclasts Charles Mingus and Herbie Nichols. Their approach to Monk’s familiar music is a pleasing mix of respect and experiment, and there is nothing ultimately gimmicky about their use of the non-canonical instrumental line-up. Higham adds his own tribute, ‘Man in Astrakhan’, to an enjoyable collection of nine Monk tunes which includes ‘I Mean You’, a rather acerbic ‘Nutty’, ‘Pannonica’, ‘Jackie-ing’ and a strange take on ‘Misterioso’ along the way.

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