Jazz at Lincoln Center
“John Beasley’s envelope-stretching arrangements, his extraordinary orchestrating abilities, imaginative soloing from players: a net result of some of the most mesmerizing big band music – individually and collectively – of recent memory.” – International Review of Music (on MONK’estra) The MONK’estra is an all-star collective of musicians led by John Beasley, an ambitious pianist whose extensive career has ranged from playing keyboard in the bands of Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard to serving as music director for Jazz at the White House, which earned him a 2016 Emmy Award nomination. He’s assembled an astounding lineup for his MONK’estra project (as a rhythm section of James Genus and Terreon Gully should indicate!), and the group was just nominated for two 2017 Grammy Awards: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella. Beasley has always been a fan of Monk, and with this band he presents sprawling big band arrangements that fully embrace Monk’s eccentricities and humor. These new arrangements revisit Monk’s iconic melodies and rhythms, imbuing them with an added emphasis on the New Orleans spirit, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and hip hop influences. It’s a well-paced mix of meticulously arranged ensemble passages and spitfire solo sections that give many of the band members time in the spotlight. The music is full of surprises, but the original essence of Monk’s writing shines throughout.