Review by Willard Manus

“The sound and the feel of MONK’ESTRA is inspired by the spirit of Thelonious Monk which is about swing, feel, experimenting, and modern contemporary harmony. Undeniably, I have been transfixed and transformed by Monk. This is my third album featuring his music...He showed us how to be free, courageous, experimental and non-judgmental. Palms together and deep bow to you, Thelonious Monk.”
Thus writes John Beasely in the liner notes to MONK’ESTRA, his new Mack Avenue album. Beasely, who grew up in a musical family and has been based in L.A. since 1977, playing keyboards in TV/studio bands, touring with Miles Davis, and serving as musical director for Steely Dan, Monk Institute (where Herbie Hancock is chairman), and Queen Latifah, has put his own stamp on nine classic Monk tunes, among which are “Epistrophy,” “‘Round Midnight” and “Little Rootie Tootie.”

In each case, Beasely’s arrangements not only recapture Monk’s original intent but reinvigorate it, giving it a bold, new, adventurous sound that can take your breath away. Aiding him in this remarkable 21st century take are such accomplished musicians as Gary Burton (vibes), Bob Sheppard (saxes), Ryan Dragon (trombone) and Terreon Gully (drums). On all nine tracks Beasely plays and conducts from the piano chair.
If Monk were alive and could hear this new CD, he’d surely put palms together and give a low bow to John Beasely.