Thelonius Monk was one of the truly great piano geniuses on the international jazz scene.
Esbjörn Svensson is one of the truly great piano talents on the Scandinavian jazz scene.
In some way you knew that they had to meet sooner or later. At last spiritually. And musically.
„Plays Monk“ is the telling title of the CD from 1996 by Esbjörn Svensson Trio (EST).
Ten of the most beloved songs by Monk, from nocturnal, lovingly caressing „`Round Midnight“ to the gay and
sprightly „Rhythm-A-Ning“, gets here a becomingly shining new colour.
In EST we have Magnus Öström on drums, Dan Berglund on double-bass and, of course, Esbjörn Svensson himself, who was an infant when he practically learnt to walk to the sound of „In Walked Bud“.
„My father was and is a great jazz lover. So I was very young when I first came in touch with Monk´s music. He is the kind of composer that cannot be avoided“, says Esbjörn Svensson.
The music of Thelonius Monk is a peculiar mixture of simplicity and and complexity; of larguorous ballads and rhythms turned inside out. The music is a challenge. „You can always give it your personal touch“, explains Esbjörn.
On „Plays Monk“ you notice this over and over again. EST has for instance made is own interpretation of the classic „`Round Midnight“, complete with a new string arrangement signed Esbjörn Svensson. The haunting string section is played by four members of the Swedish radio Symphony Orchestra.
Both Monk and EST have a common determination to go beyond the sometimes rather narrow items of jazz music. This is noticeable if we take a look at the musical past of the trio, who has played with such diverse luminaries as Rebecka Trnkvist, Nisse Landgren, Svante Thuresson, Lisa Nilsson and Louise Hoffsten.
This is definitely a trio who seeks challenges; who wants to try the unexpected. And the spirit of Monk is certainly here, hovering over the recordings that were made together with a producer we do normaly not connect with jazz:
Johan Ekelund, who is probably most wellknown as one half of the successful soulpop duo Ratata.
„He brought fresh ideas into this project. I certainly hope we can record together gaian“, said Esbjörn, who doesn`t want to label himself as ab inventerate jazz purist. Soul and pop is often playd at home, when Esbjörn Svensson himself is there. (taken from the offical press release)
Some press clippings:
“Esbjörn Svensson, doubtlessly the leading pianist in the young Swedish great pianist generation, takes his trio EST into Monk’s world in a congenial way. “ (Sven Malm, Svenska Dagbladet.)
“A giant musicality – to just take something and play it, make it natural and splendid, just like the already legendary trio with Dan Berglund (contrabase) and Magnus Öström (drums) now does with ten well chosen tracks by Thelonious Monk”. (Johannes Cornell, Dagens Nyheter.)
“This glimmering and since many years teamworking trio does really personal interpretations of ten Thelonious Monk-compositions. The rhythmic puls is tangible as is the joy. Esbjörn Svensson’s ingenious and clever piano playing is very strong here, as is Dan Berglunds brilliant bass. Magnus Öström’s drumming is as always very good
and musical. (Björn Borgström, Dagens Industri.)
After all, the album is called „Plays Monk“ – a meeting between talent and geniality. The result? „Rhythm-ANing“, pure and simple!
Recorded by Åke Linton and Johan Ekelund at Swedish Radio, Studio 9, January 1996
Dan Berglund (bass)
Magnus Öström (drums)
Esbjörn Svensson (piano)
01. I Mean You 6.43
02. Criss Cross 548
03. Round Midnight 6.11
04. Bemsha Swing 7.19
05. Rhythm-A-Ning 4.01
06. In Walked Bud 6.37
07. Little Rootie Tootie 4.06
08. Eronel 4.56
09. Evidence 5.03
10. Crepuscule With Nellie 6.40
All compositions by Thelonious Monk