Herts Jazz Fest has commissioned transcriber/ arranger Callum Au to produce a new version of the Thelonious Monk Orchestra At Town Hall Concert from 1959 for Big Band, which is to be performed on the last night of this year’s Festival, Sunday September 18th. Tunes such as Friday The 13th , Monk's Mood and Little Rootie Tootie will be heard for the first time in these new transcriptions.
Festival Artistic Director Clark Tracey explained the background to the “Mingus/Monk Big Band tribute,” the final concert of this year’s festival, of which the Monk will form one of the halves, to Sebastian.
“This big band concert is actually an extension of the “Jump Monk” band which Arnie Somogyi runs, which performs Mingus and Monk tunes and has done for years.” The band is a quintet or sextet which also includes (saxophonists) Karen Sharp, Tony Kofi and (trombonist) Jeremy Price.
“Arnie and I had a chat about doing something on a larger scale and we came up with this.” One half will be Mingus tunes, from Arnie Somogyi’s library of charts. Somogyi’s recent experience in Mingus repertoire includes something rather special: performing two nights as the bassist with the Mingus Big Band during their residency at Ronnie Scott's, standing in for Boris Kozlov.
And who will be the pianist in the all-important role of Monk on September 18th? “Bruce Boardman,” explained Clark Tracey. “His ability to reproduce Monk is unique. He is my absolute favourite Monk imitator and interpreter. I first got to know Bruce 25 years ago, he was very much on the scene then (in later years he has been active as a a teacher at Watford Music Centre). Back then, we got thrown together working with the American trombonist Steve Davis. Davis called a Monk tune, and it was astonishing. Bruce just turned into Monk. So we played Monk and nothing else for the rest of the evening.”
But surely - I asked - everyone talked about your father Stan Tracey as having watched Monk play, absorbed his style completely, internalized it? “Yes, I’ve been thinking about that as I get into the final stages of the book (NOTE: Clark Tracey’s biography of Stan Tracey). Stan came from the same place musically as Monk, he was heavily influenced by having watched him. It was something really special for Stan. But if you put Bruce Boardman and Stan side by side and asked them to play Monk, one would sound like Monk, and the other would sound like… Stan Tracey.” (pp)
LINKS: Herts Jazz Festival full programme / website
Clark Tracey interview about the 2016 programme