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FRANK CARLBERG LARGE ENSEMBLE

«Monk Dreams, Hallucinations and Nightmares»
RED PIANO RECORDS RPR-14599-4425

It was not so long ago that I reviewed Frank Carlberg’s quintet album «No Money In Art» here (28.01.2017). Three months later came out this «Monk Dreams…» It is, in spite of the title, pure big band music with standard 4-4-5 horn sections plus rhythm team.

The album is not meant to be any Thelonious Monk centennial tribute but his spirit can still temporarily be heard here and there through the whole album. Aside from the crowning final piece «’Round Midnight», the compositions are by Carlberg. But the Monk’s ghost is floating over the music with short quotations of his various themes.

Already in the opening «Dry Bean Stew» one can hear many characteristic features of Carlberg typical for his compositions and arrangements. The piece starts with a kind of jungle sound feelings, then a drop of «I Mean You» followed by fast and furious section work. John O’Callagher playes a fierce alto solo on it. Then a more peaceful part with a great piano solo by Carlberg.

Rich arrangements with tasty and intensive use of horn sections. Frequent changes in tempos, rhythms and moods. There lies the basic beauty of the music on this album. Add to that a nice bunch of individual soloists whose playing make this brew sparkle. Small Monk quotations don’t sound corny, on the contrary they add their own spices to the entity, stylishly almost hidden there but clearly recognizable by anybody familiar with Monk’s music.

Carlberg’s team mates from his quintet, John O’Callagher on alto sax and Michael Sarin on drums do great work here throughout. Among the overall great solo parts Alan Ferber on trombone and John Carlson on trumpet make their horns blow, too.

The magnificent and individual arrangement of «’Round Midnight» puts Kirk Knuffle’s cornet into the spotlight. Among the dozens different versions of this jazz classic this one is really something special and unique.

As a whole this is music rich by texture, sometimes complex, too. But nevertheless, swinging all the time. And absolutely worth listening to.

Timo Vähäsilta

Kirk Knuffke, John Carlson, Dave Smith, Jonathan Powell (tp, flh and cor), Alan Ferber, Brian Drye, Chris Washburne, Max Seigel (tb), John O’Callagher, Jeremy Udden, Sam Sadigursky, Adam Kolker, Brian Landrus (s), Christine Correa (v), Frank Carlberg (p, Rhodes), Johannes Weidenmueller (b), Michael Sarin (dr), Paul Lichter (words), JC Sanford (cond)