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 Title:               THUNK!

 By:                  Stephen Gauci

 Released in:   2012

 Format:          CD

 Catalog No:    MW 868-2

 EAN:               5901549185317

 Price:             12 EUR

THUNK! by Stephen Gauci album cover


1. Bemsha Swing, Thelonious Monk / arr. Kenny Wessel

2. Ask Me Now, Thelonious Monk / arr. Stephen Gauci

3. Let's Cool One, Thelonious Monk / arr. Michael Bisio

4. Monks Mood, Thelonious Monk / arr. Stephen Gauci

5. Nutty, Thelonious Monk / arr. Stephen Gauci

6. Ruby My Dear, Thelonious Monk

7. Off minor, Thelonious Monk / arr. Stephen Gauci

8. Well You Needn't, Thelonious Monk / arr. Michael Bisio 



Stephen Gauci - tenor saxophone

Kenny Wessel - guitar

Michael Bisio - bass

Jeremy Carlstedt - drums



on December 6thm 2009 by Todd Orr at Sertso Studio, Woodstock, New York


What the critics say:

Thelonious Monk tributes are relatively commonplace nowadays although using a guitarist instead of a pianist is always a challenge. Mr. Gauci organized a solid working quartet here, one that has played with some regularity over the past few years. I had been hearing great things about this disc for the past year or so and finally getting a chance to hear this week, it is something special. Mr. Gauci is a rare Downtown tenor player who has a superb, well-worn tone and can still play pretty far out. After playing in Ornette's last version of Primetime, guitarist Kenny Wessel has been popping up all over with Karl Berger, Adam Rudolph's Go Organic Orchestra and Badal Roy. Wessel has a swell, jazzy tone which fits perfectly with Gauci's warm, soulful sound.

If the subject of an album of covers songs is pianist Thelonious Monk, then the approach invariably is reverence or its opposite, insolence. Bands either worship at Monk's alter or attempt to out-Monk Monk by counterfeiting eccentricity or outlandishness. To quote the great man, "You've been making the wrong mistakes."

One band not making those wrong mistakes is saxophonist Stephen Gauci's quartet. Its eight Monk covers begin with a bold confidence and ply a determined vigor to this famed canon.

'Thunk!' opens with a hint of funk, as bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jeremy Carlstedt stroll New Orleans for a pulse. By the time guitarist Kenny Wessel and Gauci enter, the die has been cast. These cats muscle "Bemsha Swing" more as jazz-funk than bebop. While aggressive, the music never comes off as irreverent. Gauci has shared a regular collaboration with Bisio in the bassist's quartet; Bisio also appears on pianist Kris Davis' stellar Three (Clean Feed, 2010), and on Gauci's twin-bassist Basso Continuo group, on Nididyhasana (Clean Feed, 2008).

Tracks like "Monks Mood," "Well You Needn't" and "Off Minor" are played as if pushed by a pugnaciousness that is more New York brusqueness. Credit Bisio's hand, and the producer's choice to mix the drums upfront. Gauci's choice of notes, as his selection of players dictates this mood. The discovery here is Wessel. He favors a supportive role when Gauci solos, but stitches together a running commentary throughout tracks like "Nutty" and dresses up "Ask me Now," in duo with Gauci, that simply elevates the track into a dream state. Gauci's Thunk! book is a veracious take on the brilliance of Thelonious Monk.


Mark Corroto, AAJ




Ormai si è perso il conto dei jazzisti che si sono lasciati ispirare da Thelonious Monk, a volte confinando tutto nell'ortodossia di un mainstream ligio ai dettami scolastici, altre volte muovendosi in direzioni più avanguardistiche, come hanno fatto i pianisti John Stetch e Alex von Schlippenbach.

Stephen Gauci appartiene ad una terza categoria, quella dei musicisti che hanno interiorizzato la fuga dall'ortodossia che lo spirito di Monk ha da sempre rappresentato.


E così in apertura di disco ci troviamo con un Bemsha Swing suonato su un ritmo quasi funk, che promette bene per il resto del disco. Seguono atmosfere più astratte, con una Ask Me Now, introdotta in duo da chitarra e sax che, col solo contrabasso a fare da supporto, si producono in un'interpretazione immaginifica; poesia pura raccontata in musica. Let's Cool One respira più l'aria del mainstream, così come Monk's Mood.


Su Nutty la chitarra elettrica di Kenny Wessel ha il sopravvento: stupendo l'assolo, moderno al punto giusto. Stephen Gauci è ovviamente presente ovunque, ma il suo miglior assolo lo tira fuori su Ruby My Dear, perfetto formalmente e ricco di feeling. Sul valore dei musicisti c'è poco da aggiungere, se non che Michael Bisio è un grande contrabbassista purtroppo poco conosciuto in Europa, mentre il batterista Jeremy Carlsted genera uno swing sottile che permea l'intero disco.


Questo omaggio a Monk del quartetto di Gauci non ha niente di scontato. È quello che succede quando gli uomini dell'avanguardia decidono di rendere tributo ai grandi della tradizione cogliendone lo spirito piuttosto che gli aspetti formali.


Vittorio Lo Conte, AAJ Italia

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