Recorded live, these three CDs chronicle Thelonious Monk’s songbook by respective musicians who generally explore the freer side of matters, coalescing as a quartet for a rapidly paced marathon. Ultimately, these works generally intersect as the band has quite a bit of fun varying tempos, switching gears and then at times, performing Monk within a mainstream jazz format. With dabs of post modernism interjected into the overall schema, the music features a bit of cavorting here and there, along with blithe swing vamps and much more. On "52nd Street Theme," the rhythm section injects an Afro-Cuban framework beneath trumpeter Axel Dorner and saxophonist Rudi Mahall’s zigzagging lines. But on a split-second’s notice, they jump into a briskly moving bop groove. Here and elsewhere throughout these three CDs, the quartet melds traditional Monk with a nouveau disposition, whereas all hell breaks loose on "San Francisco Holiday," for example.
Pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach comps within a Monk-ish state of mind and on pieces like "Japanese folk Song," he spearheads a lighthearted swing motif. Every so often, notions of an after-hours jam session come to mind and on "Blue Hawk," Mahall and Dorner execute an upbeat vibe, awash with animated choruses. However, this boxed set provides more than a simple rehashing of Monk’s compositions. Essentially, the quartet instills a singular persona into the entire program via nicely rehearsed arrangements and an influx of twists and turns. Naturally, Monk is Monk, and most of these works are easily identifiable. Therefore, the live renderings of his songbook combine elements of wit, humor, frenzy and a focused game-plan to complement the soloists’ synchronous facilitations and spirited exchanges.