Drummer Ben Riley and arranger/trumpeter Don Sickler have developed a new environment for exploring the genius of Thelonious Monk: a piano-less septet. Ben Riley played in Thelonious Monk's quartet for nearly 5 years and was continuously inspired by Monk the composer and performer. Monk had his own personal harmonic and rhythmic language, which, coupled with his unorthodox approach to the piano-the way he coaxed sound from the keys of the piano-made his pianist's voice in the rhythm section totally unique.  

      Riley's no-piano Monk Legacy Septet lets varying combinations of horns and guitar explore Monk's accompaniment role, using Monk's own unique palette of harmonies and rhythms. Ben can once again react to the familiar Monk language and accents, now being spoken by alto or soprano sax, trumpet, tenor sax, baritone sax and guitar. The combination of these different instrumental timbres, without piano, creates a refreshing new canvas of sound for exploring Monk's music. 

        Sickler's arrangements dissect and re-construct Monk's comping and solos so the Septet's voices can echo Monk's original thoughts and phrases, inspiring Riley's responses. 

        As one excited audience member said after the group's debut performance at the Village Vanguard in NYC, "This band ROCKS!"

Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet repertoire includes:  

  • Ask Me Now 
  • Bemsha Swing
  • Blue Monk
  • Boo Boo's Birthday
  • Brake's Sake
  • Bright Mississippi
  • Bye-Ya
  • Coming On The Hudson
  • Epistrophy 
  • Evidence 
  • Four In One 
  • Gallop's Gallop  
  • Green Chimneys  
  • Jackie-ing 
  • Let's Call This 
  • Little Rootie Tootie 
  • Pannonica 
  • Reflections 
  • Rhythm-A-Ning 
  • Shuffle Boil 
  • Straight, No Chaser 
  • Ugly Beauty 
  • We See

Hear a sample of the arrangements that are underlined by clicking on them.

What is unique about Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet?

We know other groups have played Monk's music without a piano, but no other group has explored Monk's comping (accompaniment) behind their soloists. Varying combinations of the four horns plus guitar inspire the soloists (and Ben Riley) with Monk's ingenious blend of harmonic voicings and unique rhythmic accompaniment.

Click on any of the following underlined titles to hear some Monk comping translated to horns and guitar: