Live review: Monk's Afro-Cuban Dream, Monk DJ Style at Ford Amphitheater, October 1.


The Angel City Jazz Festival opened with a generational divide, brought together by every generation's admiration for Thelonious Monk, whose centennial we're celebrating.

First it was in with the old, as a seasoned ad hoc ensemble calling itself Monk's Afro-Cuban Dream rolled out island interpretations of the Thelonian oeuvre – no novelty, as established Eddie Palmieri arrangements of "In Walked Bud" and "I Mean You" demonstrated. With Monk's jumpy rhythms lending themselves well to percussive shake, the at times explosive interactions between pianist Miguel Valera and conguero Richie Flores spiced things up with beat expansions and contractions whenever the party slipped toward languidsville. Trumpeter Brian Lynch's crisp flourishes kept up a mainstreamish energy, and he combined education and social awareness by interpolating a bit of "Caravan" (Puerto Rican trombonist Juan Tizol's most notable contribution to the Ellington songbook and the Monk repertoire) into a solo. Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, a bald vision in black pajamas and Elton John specs, paid tribute to Carmen McRae and Abbey Lincoln via "Well You Needn't" and "Monk's Dream" – deservedly congratulating herself on her nimble execution of the latter's tricky intervallic leaps. The Dream brought back a breath of summer, and the audience settled back.

Older patrons trickled out during the ensuing ensemble performance by DJ Logic, keyboardist Mark de Clive-Lowe, drummer Deantoni Parks and saxist Steve Lehman, but they shoulda stayed to suck up the smoky humidity. Raised amid cynicism and despair rather than post-WWII optimism, today's creative under-40s have resorted to brooding improvisations that communicate a gathering of forces. DJ Logic intercut loops of Monk riffs (a recycling of still-potent revolutionary energy) with old recordings of intellectual commentary about Monk (mockery of entrenched stasis) and embedded his shifting sources in walls of scratchy LP vapor (ambiguity of everything). The heartbeat carried on despite the darkness, however, as a hunched Parks, white baseball cap almost resting on his snare, slapped a relentless shuffle, de Clive-Lowe sprinkled echoing electronic cold showers, and Lehman punctuated with obbligatos of funky 1976 alto. The impression: You can find us underground for now, but we will dance our way through this swamp. Though designed for club ambience, this music felt appropriate outdoors amid the cement battlements, the evening dankness and the twisted silhouettes of trees above the stage.

Kudos to John Beasley (leader of Monk'estra among many other projects) for a challenging event concept and a satisfying realization. A bit of schiz can give a head perspective.

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