Ethan Iverson Quintet: Play Monk. Edinburgh Jazz Festival, July 2006.

Iverson’s third outing at this year’s Edinburgh jazz festival, this time with a band of local musicians playing the music of Thelonious Monk: Colin Steele on trumpet, Laura MacDonald on alto sax, Aidan O’Donnell on bass and Alan Cosker on drums. With other musicians around him, Iverson was more relaxed than earlier in the week.

The angular, jagged character to Monk’s compositions suited Iverson’s style – he said he had been playing these tunes since he was fourteen (which I would guess means the last twenty years or so) – and he played with a lot of energy, launching out of the piano stool to hit the notes.

Colin Steele

Steele was on fine, fiery form, driven along by the piano; he played some excellent muted trumpet, and he brings a great deal of pyrotechnic excitement to the bandstand. MacDonald, who had already played a solo gig that night, was flying, her solos building within the structure of Monk’s tunes. Iverson gently prodded the keys behind the soloists, a few piano notes adding just a touch of texture.

Iverson avoided the better-known of Monk’s tunes – there was no Round Midnight or Blue Monk – but they covered much of Monk’s career. Misterioso, Well You Needn’t, Crepuscule With Nellie and what sounded like Monk’s Mood (it was name checked as Ask Me Know – not a track I know) were all featured.

Laura MacDonald

There were only two non-Monk compositions – a sax feature of Body And Soul from MacDonald, and a beautiful version of Angel Eyes for Steele.

Whilst the music was excellent, there was little re-interpretation of these classic tunes. Iverson was working from recently published versions of the music, derived from the original manuscripts, and he could have brought some more of himself to the tunes.

Colin Steele


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