I heard Barry Harris' trio at William Paterson University yesterday. They mostly played standards from the great american songbook, but also played a few Thelonious Monk compositions including 'Round Midnight' and 'Off Minor'. These songs in particular were played in a very tasteful manner. A lot of piano players often try too hard to be or sound like Thelonious Monk when playing Monk's songs. As Harold Mabern once said in one of my ensembles at William Paterson (regarding what I'm addressing) "it's like guys always want to out-Monk Monk. That's why I don't play Monk tunes". Now this is something that i don't particularly like either, so, it's refreshing when a piano player can play a Monk song and still be his/herself while incorporating just the right amount of Monk's style/concept. Barry Harris clearly displayed the difference between trying to "out-Monk Monk" and paying homage to Monk by playing his songs in an honest, genuine, unpretensious, relaxed way.
Barry's trio has been playing together for a long time so they play together in a very unified way. The hookup between the bass player(Ray Drummond), the drummer(Leroy Williams) and Barry was very solid but open or loose at the same time. Any of them could choose to play behind or on top of the beat, but were always aware of the flow and the overall tempo. Often when one member of a band tries to play behind or on top of the beat(especially with young and/or unseasoned musicians), the rest of the band or someone in the rhythm section may adjust to their time potentially causing the music to speed up or slow down. Barry's trio(all seasoned older jazz musicians) had very minimal tempo fluctuations but had a tremendous amount of breath within the beats. Their maturity and experience in life and playing this music for such a long time has granted them with the utmost patience and composure which enables them to achieve what they do musically. It's a blessing and an honor to get...
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