Monk's Dream | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Monk's Dream

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In their Chicago Jazz Fest appearance last month, this unusual trio proved that with an imaginative concept and highwire virtuosity, you can break a lot of rules and make it come out right. Monk's Dream features the relatively odd combination of piano and organ--played by Mike Kocour and Steve Million, respectively--and concentrates on the 70 or so compositions left behind by Thelonious Monk, who died in 1982 (but really stopped writing nearly 20 years earlier). Usually, when a band comes together to honor the work of one composer, it places a premium on fidelity, aping the instrumentation and sometimes even the improvisational style of the original recordings. But Thelonious Monk never played organ, and he never shared the stage with another keyboardist; so clearly this Chicago band's goals do not include historical re-creation. The quirky sound of Monk's Dream has an unexpected effect. It's like turning a fun-house mirror to Monk's songs, but since the songs themselves are quirky to begin with, they come out sounding more "normal." They still retain enough of their essential angularity, though, and they provide terrific vehicles for the spirited improvising and interplay of Kocour and Million. This engagement marks the return to action of the exciting and impulsive drummer Robert Shy--following a truck accident earlier this year--and the band's debut at the Jazz Buffet, a snazzy and potentially important new jazz room. Wednesday, 8:30 and 10:30 PM, Jazz Buffet, 2556 W. Diversey; 862-0055.

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