Today’s Sounds: Alexander von Schlippenbach

Alexander von Schlippenbach leads Yet Another Monk Album, plus echoes of baggy/jangly England on the debut single by Nottingham’s Childhood and more love for lo-fi video via Vancouver punk grrrls White Lung.


Alexander von Schlippenbach, Schlippenbach Plays Monk (Intakt)

YAMA, the Hindu judge of departed souls, could also be an acronym for Yet Another Monk Album. How fitting. Considered too weird to be covered during his peak period from the late 1940s through the 1960s, the tsunami of tribute discs since Thelonious Monk’s 1982 death prove his posthumous prominence.

Dubbed the High Priest of Be-Bop, his idiosyncratic rhythms and highly dissonant harmonies have been especially revered by the free music community. Anthony Braxton, the ICP Orchestra, Elliott Sharp, Georg Graewe, even Canadians from Toronto’s Hat and Beard to Montreal’s own Evidence Trio led by Jean Derome have released Monk-centric recordings. So why YAMA?

This question is especially pertinent since Alexander von Schlippenbach himself has already released four Monk sides. In 1997, his trio with drummer Sunny Murray and bassist Ino Nobuyoshi released a solid set of 14 Monk tunes, mostly playing it straight with a few intoxicating chasers. In 2005, Schlippenbach’s Monk’s Casino Quintet recorded all 71 Monk compositions (note to obsessives…yes, there is some debate about the exact number) over a sprawling three-CD box. Like the Graewe disc these were largely impressions of Monk, the familiar melodies shuffle boiling out of continuous sections of free noise, a masterwork updating of the catalogue that made just about everyone’s top 10 list that year.

After trio and quintet outings, we now get the Schlippenbach solo piano CD. The performances are brilliant (who knows Monk better by now?), and there is some novelty in that 10 of the 20 tracks are improvised interludes interspersed inside the nine Monk chestnuts (“Introspection” is played twice, the second more extroverted than the first). The interludes are Monk-inspired miniatures, with even the 21 second “3” bursting with criss-cross rhythms and harmonic richness. Schlippenbach somehow manages to keep the tunes at the forefront while backgrounding even more depth to the changes, no easy feat with Monk’s already complex music.

So, you ask me now, should you think of one more Monk CD? Humph. Let’s call this introspection, but who knows? If we see you are nutty for the ugly beauty unique to Monk’s moody reflections, this one can work. Otherwise, well, you needn’t.


Childhood, “Blue Velvet”

The debut single by Nottingham’s Childhood is a refreshing blast from England’s musical past, a summation of the pop sounds of 1989 minus Hammer pants and New Kids on the Block.


White Lung, “Glue”

We’re giving more love to the low-grade look of VHS this week via Vancouver punk act White Lung. But unlike Mac DeMarco’s ironic chillwave clip, this really looks like a cheap-ass early ’90s video. The track comes from the band latest, sophomore record Sorry.

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