AVAILABLE NOW: John Beasley | “MONK’estra Plays John Beasley” | Mack Avenue Records
AVAILABLE NOW on Mack Avenue Records:
John Beasley Comes Full Circle on
MONK’estra Plays John Beasley, Third Release by
GRAMMY® Award-nominated Big Band
Album Features Special Guests Joey DeFrancesco,
John Patitucci, Vinnie Colaiuta, Hubert Laws, Grégoire Maret &
Jubilant Sykes on Original Compositions Alongside Classics from Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker & Duke Ellington
Beasley Receives Coveted Carnegie Hall
Commission for the National Youth Ensemble
The music of Thelonious Monk has provided a rich fount of inspiration for generations of jazz musicians, its daunting wit and impish intricacies offering endless fodder for exploration and interpretation. Over the course of two albums, bandleader/composer/arranger John Beasley has reimagined Monk’s iconic compositions through the vehicle of his inventive, versatile MONK’estra –- a big band able to deftly navigate the legend’s angular eccentricities with a staggering variety of perspectives from boisterous swing to raucous funk to Afro-Cuban explosiveness.
The results speak for themselves: both MONK’estra, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 garnered a pair of GRAMMY® Award nominations apiece alongside widespread critical acclaim. Keeping in line with its namesake’s unpredictable nature, the MONK’estra veers off in new directions on its stunning third album, MONK’estra Plays John Beasley, due out August 21, 2020 via Mack Avenue Records. As the title implies, this time out the band shifts focus to its fearless leader’s own estimable compositions and piano playing, alongside a quartet of Monk classics and a tune apiece by Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.
MONK’estra Plays John Beasley brings the keyboardist full circle in more ways than one. While the two preceding albums focused more on Beasley’s arranging talent, he’s featured playing the piano on every track. Additionally, besides casting the lens of his brilliant ensemble on his own music for the first time, the album also reunites Beasley with several now-formidable artists with whom he performed with in his formative years nearly three decades ago.
Reconfiguring the MONK’estra into a number of smaller combinations, Beasley brings together such peers and mentors as bassist John Patitucci and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, his bandmates in the early 90s quartet Audio Mind and Patitucci’s bands; organ great Joey DeFrancesco, whose footsteps he followed into the Miles Davis band in 1989; and legendary flutist Hubert Laws, who hired a 20-year old Beasley and Patitucci to play Carnegie Hall.
Despite the diversified repertoire and lineups, MONK’estra Plays John Beasley is very much a MONK’estra album. The name of the band, Beasley explains, is less about the name on its sheet music than about the spirit it embodies.
“The band takes its mission from Monk’s boldness, courage and experimentation,” he says. “Monk was always willing to let go, let whatever happens happen and make music out of that, while maintaining his unique sense of groove.”
MONK’estra Plays John Beasley is the latest reinvention in a career full of them. Beasley worked with iconic trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis while still in his 20s and has gone on to play with such greats as Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Steely Dan, Chaka Khan and Christian McBride. He serves as Music Director for the Herbie Hancock institute’s globe-spanning International Jazz Day concerts while touring the world with the MONK’estra. In addition, he has worked extensively in film and television, primarily on the soundtracks of noted composer Thomas Newman, including the James Bond hits Spectre and Skyfall. Along the way, Beasley has garnered five GRAMMY® Award-nominations and an Emmy® Award.
This year, Carnegie Hall commissioned John Beasley to write a new work for its critically-acclaimed national youth ensemble, NYO Jazz, which brings together the finest jazz musicians (ages 16-19) from across the United States. Entitled “Fête dans la Tête,” this piece will be premiered digitally given NYO Jazz’s pivot to an online residency this summer due to COVID-19. NYO Jazz Artistic Director and Bandleader Sean Jones led NYO Jazz in preparation for the virtual world premiere of “Fête dans la Tête,” as well as a video performance of Thad Jones’s Cherry Juice.
The ensemble recorded the virtual performance video project during its residency, directed by Emmy Award-winner Habib Azar, and it is scheduled to be released in mid-September. NYO Jazz was originally scheduled to premiere Beasley’s work at its annual Carnegie Hall concert followed by a tour to South Africa in summer 2020, both of which were canceled. “As a composer,” states Beasley “I cannot ask for a more perfect scenario when asked by the Artistic Director [Sean Jones] to compose for a student ensemble with the mandate to thoroughly challenge them as if they were top-tier professional players. Sean obviously knows his students potential as they answered the challenge in remarkable fashion.”
An interesting irony regarding Carnegie Hall: while Beasley was in his late teens he performed alongside Hubert Laws and John Patitucci there: his first encounter with two musicians who have come full circle on his new recording.
John Beasley · MONK’estra Plays John Beasley
Mack Avenue Records · Release Date: August 21, 2020
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