Concord CD release October 31, 2006, Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet
Memories of T -
pre-order at the Concord Music Store


Drummer Ben Riley played with Thelonious Monk in one of the pianist/composer's finest bands, the indefatigable quartet of the mid-60s, and Riley has been one of Monk's greatest advocates ever since, including this sparkling, joyous septet. Don Sickler wrote the arrangements for the band, devising an original approach to orchestrating Monk without a piano by combining guitar with his own trumpet and three saxophones, often to mimic Monk's original accompaniments. The resulting clarity highlights Riley's subtly propulsive drumming and a general fidelity to Monk's style of melodic improvisation, most notably by newcomer Wayne Escoffery on tenor. Along with some of Monk's best-known tunes ("Rhythm-A-Ning" and "Straight, No Chaser" stand out), the band offers fine versions of three witty and obscure gems that Monk wrote for a 1955 Gigi Gryce session: "Gallop's Gallop," "Brake's Sake," and "Shuffle Boil." They're evidence of Riley and Sickler's thoughtful and thorough appreciation of modern jazz's greatest composer. --Stuart Broomer

No dis on the soloists, but the veteran drummer's new Memories of T is ultimately made engaging by Don Sickler's imaginative arrangements. The pianoless outfit addresses the natural intricacy of Monk's "Brakes Sake" and "Gallop's Gallop" with a blend of verve and efficiency.-- Macnie, Village Voice

I just want to hip you to my favorite new album. "Memories of T" by Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Band is just plain wonderful. Riley and artistic sage/trumpeter Don Sickler have created and superbly executed an inspirational idea - a pianoless tribute to Monk and his music. Working on the accurate assumption that nobody could possibly duplicate the sound or feeling of Monk as a pianist, Sickler has transcribed not only Monk's solos and those of his sidemen, but has also transcribed Monk's comping behind the solos and uses a band comprised of three saxes, trumpet, guitar, bass and drums to create an approximation of the sound of Monk's peerless quartets, one of which included the drum artistry of Ben Riley. This is a special recording of some very special music, and I hope that it is
only the first of many. We had this group at our Jazzfest this year, and they are just as wonderful in person as they sound on this disc. Grab the disc, and see them if the opportunity presents itself. -- Joe Lang