Cellist/bassist Buell Neidlinger was born in New York City in 1936. Originally starting out his music career as a cello soloist, Buell developed a keen interest in the jazz bass by the age of 25. He sports a fairly impressive resume including stints with Joe Sullivan, Herbie Nichols, Dick Wellstood, Vic Dickenson, and Oran "Hot Lips" Page. He has recorded and performed with singers Tony Bennett and Billie Holiday, instrumentalists Lester Young and Rex Stewart, the Gil Evans band, and Cecil Taylor just to name a few.
Starting in the early seventies until the late nineteen nineties, Neidlinger embarked on an extensive recording career as a section leader on hundreds of major Hollywood film music sessions. He has played on numerous pop and jazz recordings with Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Earth Wind and Fire, The Beach Boys, Duane Eddy, Elvis Costello, Anthony Braxton and Frank Zappa among many others. In addition he has frequently led his own jazz ensembles in both Europe and throughout North America.
Rounding out his musical career, Neidlinger has played with some of the most prominent orchestra's in the country including the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the American Symphony Orchestra, the Berkshire Music Center Orchestra, and the Houston Symphony.
Performing as the group called "Thelonious" this CD features Buell Neidlinger and reedman Marty Krystall with two different combos; a quartet and a quintet. The first is an acoustic band featuring Brenton Banks on piano and Billy Osborne on drums. The second band, on the final five tracks, features keyboard player Jerry Peters, drummer William Jeffery and trumpeter Hugh Schick.
Buell says "I had been playing and recording Monk's music since the late 50's, but in recent times, Marty and I became increasingly fascinated with it. We noticed that a lot of people said what a great musician and a tremendous influence Monk was, but in most cases, they weren't bothering to play his music, except the more familiar pieces like 'Round Midnight' and 'Straight No Chaser'. We didn't want to be guilty of that."
The group Thelonious, as you might expect given their name, plays only Monk music. On Atmosphere they have put together a wonderful collection of Monk's music. This CD contains music recorded live during two separate concerts. The first one a radio broadcast in honor of Monk's 71st birthday - the second was as the opening act for Ornette Coleman at the Palace Theatre in Los Angeles.
Thelonious Monk during his lifetime and even today after his death remains one of the most fascinating and controversial figures in the history of jazz. Arguably, one of Jazz's greatest composers, he had an instantly recognizable style on the piano, angular and intricate. As Monk once stated, "If you really understand the meaning of be-bop, you understand the meaning of freedom."
Neidinger and Krystall have a deep understanding of Monk's music and are clearly dedicated to it. Here they have assembled 11 Monk tunes including some earlier and lesser know compositions like "Skippy," "Four in One" and "Little Rootie Tootie."
Thelonious Atmosphere is a unique and inventive CD mixing two separate concerts into one recording. Both bands are wonderful and do an excellent job upholding the spirit and rich history of the Monk compositions they play. While if you are not a Monk fan you may find the music a bit hard to listen to, stick with it through your first couple of listens and you will be richly rewarded. And for you Monk aficionados- this is indeed worthy of adding to you Thelonious collection.