An open letter to Thelonius, the latest release from The Ellis Marsalis Quartet, is an awe-inspiring tribute to one of the jazz world’s greatest pianist/composers of all time, Thelonius Monk. While most everyone knows the name, few artists have the ability to properly pay homage to Monk, a man whose sense of time, space, harmony and swing were unparalleled during his day. Ellis and his crack band, however, prove more than up to the task.
Marsalis’ arrangement of the obscure “Teo” is one of the album’s stand outs, a track that showcases Monk’s immense use of groove in his compositions, as well as his performance. While Marsalis no doubt leads the band, saxophonist Derek Douget lies heavily at the forefront of “Teo,” taking creative liberty to expound upon the piano groove, making the song soar.
Drummer Jason Marsalis also weighs heavily in the mix. On tracks such as “Straight, No Chaser” and “Rhythm-a-ning” he leads the charge, offering a modern take on the rhythms that Monk first played on piano decades ago. In the end, regardless of who has the lead, each track heard on an open letter to Thelonius pays respect to the master, while at the same time furthering Monk’s crusade of originality and musical freedom.
an open letter to Thelonius is out now on Elm.