John Beasley
MONK'estra plays John Beasley EPK

John BeasleyMONK'estra plays John Beasley EPK

photo by Lena Semmelrogen

An exclusive look behind the scenes of the arrangement and recording behind MONK’estra Plays John Beasley, the third album from John Beasley and his MONK’estra ensemble.

The two previous albums from MONK’estra carried the titles Volumes 1 and 2, and they didn’t need much else by way of introduction. It was right there in the name of the ensemble – the spirited, thoroughly modern big band dedicated to John Beasley’s ingenious arrangements of songs by Thelonious Monk, a composer as iconoclastic and memorable as his first name.

In this installment, the ensemble makes room for Beasley’s compositions – a sure reminder that his writing skills go beyond the riffs and fills and counter-themes that elevate his arrangements. The band spends most of this album playing Beasley’s songs, but the title – MONK’estra Plays John Beasley – still seems redundant. Whether it’s Monk or Duke or Bird or Miles – or, I suspect, Gregorian chant or Chinese court music – his wildly inventive writing ensures that the orchestra would always be “playing John Beasley.”