Monk Liberation Front - First Session One - QEH, Sunday 25 Nov - London Jazz Festival

Over the course of three consecutive concerts the Monk Liberation Front took on the daunting task of playing all seventy of Thelonious Monk’s compositions for the second time.  Their initial performance was at the London Jazz Festival back in 2003, but with 2007 being what would have been Monk’s 90th birthday, this was the perfect opportunity for celebration. Monk Liberation Front - First Session One - QEH, Sunday 25 Nov - London Jazz Festival
The Monk Liberation Front
admitted on a BBC Radio 4 interview a few days prior to the concert that they would have to pace themselves if they wanted to make the last song as fresh as the first.  But if the first concert was anything to go by, the pace they set themselves was pretty intense.  With some fantastically fast runs on the tenor sax in ‘Nutty’, and beats so fast they were a blur on the vibes in ‘Two Timer’, this concert didn’t hold back.  However, there were certainly points at which the changeover between songs felt rushed.  This marathon sensation put a slight dampener on the concert hall’s atmosphere, as the audience were never allowed to enjoy the moment for long, but how else could the musicians fit so much into one evening?

Tony Kofi led the MLF expertly on various saxophones as they sought to unveil all songs Monk.  It was Jonathan Gee who took on Monk’s bold and percussive piano style, but he didn’t attempt to emulate him, instead admitting, “When I play Monk I play like I play.” (BBC Radio 4)  The band’s performance never sounded dated and despite the long haul ahead of them they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Taking on twenty-one pieces in this first session, and with forty-nine still to go, Kofi announced to the audience, “I bet you’re asking yourself – can we do another two sets?  Yes we can!”

Catherine Marks