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Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 10/07/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"T.S. Monk was in a tough position-- son of a jazz legend and one of the most important composers in music history, a drummer who drifted first into r&b before embracing his jazz heritage, his debut album as a jazz leader was highly likely to be a difficult one. "Take One" shows this. Monk assembled an able band with a top notch arranger (trumpeter Don Sickler), an inventive alto (Bobby Porcelli) and an unnervingly powerful tenor deserving of far wider recognition (Willie Williams) and a rhythm section as good as anyone could ask (himself in the drum chair, bassist James Genus and pianist Ronnie Matthews). Monk for his part is an inventive, technically brilliant drummer, and with Sickler and his arrangments of twelve bebop standards, "Take One" could have been a great album.
But as many great things as Monk would do in the future, this one is pretty much a misstep-- the pieces are all there-- good arrangements, great soloing, and an exciting energy, but by and large, it just doesn't seem to work. There are a couple great pieces-- Idrees Sulieman's "Waiting" gets a lush and romantic arrangement with superb playing from the frontline, and Monk's legendary father's "'Round Midnight" gets an explosive and powerful (and upbeat!) arrangement (adapted from an arrangement by Max Roach) with fantastic solos from Sickler and Porcelli, but most of the album doesn't live up to this standard. None of it is really bad, it just doesn't go anywhere and doesn't grab the listener. It's good hard bop, but there's so many better examples out there that this one is really a footnote. I'm not sure why, but I'm guessing it's that the band just hadn't had a chance to gel yet.
T.S. Monk would go on in the future to build off his father's legacy and establish his own place within that context-- curious parties should check out the sublime "Monk on Monk", but this album is largely disposable."