Recording Date: Oct 28, 1996 - Nov 4, 2000
The Floating Jazz Festival, which takes place aboard the Queen Elizabeth II (previously held on the SS Norway), has been a regular source for outstanding live sets on the Chiaroscuro label. These excerpts from performances by Junior Mance and Joe Temperley are no exception, as they devote an entire program to works by Thelonious Monk. Accompanied by the highly in-demand young bassist Peter Washington and grizzled veteran drummer Mickey Roker, they've got a couple of surprises in store. First of all, Temperley, though known primarily as a baritone saxophonist, proves himself to be a capable bass clarinetist on the swinging opener, "Blue Monk," as well as a superb soprano saxophonist in the twisting blues "Straight, No Chaser." Of course, his hearty baritone is heard on the balance of the date, though the most obvious choice, "'Round Midnight," is unfortunately not present. Mance is featured with the rhythm section in a crisp workout of "Ask Me Now," and his strong chops are present throughout the disc. As an added bonus, one track ("Hackensack") from their 1996 concerts on the S/S Norway (with bassist Keter Betts and drummer Jackie Williams) wraps the CD.
All Music Guide
In November of 2000 aboard a ship adrift on the Atlantic Ocean, reedman Joe Temperley joined pianist Junior Mance's Floating Jazz Festival Trio in what proved to be a perfect setting for a tribute to the music of Thelonious Monk. Like Monk, the waters beneath them were capable of powerful swings and torrents, and also like Monk, their music was pronounced amid a shroud of relative isolation.
Throughout this live set, Temperley and Mance - joined by the gifted rhythm section of bassist Peter Washington and veteran drummer Mickey Roker - drive Monk's music to deserved heights and moody lows. The opener, "Blue Monk," is given a gin-soaked treatment by Temperley's swaying bass clarinet, which is then reinforced by an appropriately blue-hued Mance solo and finally cemented by Washington's spot-lit rolls and picks.
On "Ask Me Now," Temperley cedes the floor to the trio, leaving them to take on one of Monk's more lyrical and melancholic works. They do so ably and with utmost care - evoking an image of Monk as the delicate dynamo he was. Another highlight is the group's work on the infectiously swinging "Rhythm-A-Ning." Mance pulls out all the stops from gate to gate, while Temperley, on baritone sax, flutters and flips his way through with remarkable dexterity.
From start to finish, it is evident that these four know their Monk. In fact, so familiar are they with the material that they infused it with a charming, lived-in quality which few other ensembles could manage. Their approach to the artist is hardly revolutionary, but rather warm, intimate and accustomed.
It's hard to say whether Monk ever sailed the seas on a sprawling cruiseliner, but thanks to Mance, Temperley and company we now know that setting would have agreed with him just fine.
- Riel Lazarus, Published: December 3, 2003