Monk Tribute Albums That Aren’t Terrible
Elliott Sharp – Sharp? Monk? Sharp! Monk! (CFG 001)
Of all the musicians who have worked out an entire album’s worth of Monk material, Elliott Sharp is certainly in contention for the weirdest. That’s a compliment, of course. Sharp has long been a critical part of New York’s experimental music scene, in which he wears a great many hats: He plays guitar, woodwinds, electronics and several instruments he invented himself, and he performs in contexts of noise, noisy rock, techno, avant-blues, orchestral compositions, free improvisation and plenty of other generally “out” sub-genres of sound creation. Somewhere in all that, there’s a jazz influence, readily apparent on the 2006 solo-guitar offering Sharp? Monk? Sharp! Monk! On “Epistrophy,” Sharp moves all over the fretboard, crisply finger-picking percussive passages of whirling abstraction at ridiculously fast speeds, using the fragmented melody as an excuse to take tangents to their conclusions. And it works: The reformatting saves some the master’s most popular chestnuts from the perils of cliche. Now, this ain’t normal jazz. Then again, Monk was no normal jazzman.