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Talk Thelonious

Terry Adams with NRBQ+

Clang 2015

Review by David Bowling


Terry Adams was a founding member of NRBQ and 49 years later is its only constant member. Whether it be rock & roll, blues, rockabilly, or pop; NRBQ has issued a half-century of creative and joyous music. Now Terry Adams has turned his attention in a new direction and issued an album that was a lifetime in the making. Talk Thelonious will be released in late November.

Since he first heard Thelonious Monk as a teenager; he has been a disciple of his music. He met Monk and attended numerous concerts. Now he has released an album of Monk Music, which he has arranged and recorded live at the Flynn Space in Burlington, Vermont with NRBQ and some friends.

Playing the music of Thelonious Monk is a daunting task. He was an American jazz genius, whose use of dissonant notes and playing against the melody made him a unique icon of American jazz. In many ways, you don’t only play the music of Thelonious Monk but you also survive it.

Adams wisely recorded 11 of the 12 songs live in one evening. They may not have all been successful but they are always interesting. He also surrounded himself with musicians with whom he was comfortable and had a connection. Guitarist Scott Ligon, saxophonists Jim Hoke & Klem Klemik, electric bassist Pete Donnelly, bassist Pete Toigo, and drummer Conrad Choucroun are a veteran and tight unit. While not all the musicians play on every track, the sound is fuller than Monk’s original.

Another favorable decision by Adams was to adapt and arrange Monk’s music to his own ear rather than just be true to the originals, which would have been virtually impossible. “Reflections” bookends Adams improvising the original melody on a pipe organ with some funky sounds in-between. “Straight No Chaser” uses a double bass to set up his piano excursions. “Ask Me Know” has only Adams on piano and Ligon switching to the Hammond organ. The only studio track, “Ruby My Dear” incorporates violins and a harp, which add extra textures and depth to the song.

Terri Adams has created an album from the heart and soul. The music of Thelonious Monk is ripe for interpretation and Adams explores it’s depth and subtleties well.


Rating: ***