The Upshot: One word (or 4 letters, take your pick): NRBQ. Any questions?
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
NRBQ have never exactly been reticent when it comes to exploring other musical spheres or more diverse areas of interest. Likewise, the band’s keyboard player Terry Adams has often been the one to lead the charge and invite the rest of the band’s participation. According to the liner notes that accompany Talk Thelonious, the great jazz composer and musician Thelonious Monk has been an ongoing obsession for most of his musical life.
Happily then, with this intimate live set — mostly recorded at Flynn Space in Burlington Vermont practically four years to the date of its release — he makes good on his fancy with NRBQ in tow. An all instrumental set — natch — it finds the melodies veering from subtle to swing, with Adams fully present at the helm. A song like “Reflections” shows the more melodic side of Monk’s mix, while the sashaying “Ruby, My Dear” (the album’s sole studio entry) is nothing less than luminous. And yet when the group picks up the tempo, as on the intricate and intriguing “Gallop’s Gallop,” its clear that the titles do provide a perfect impetus for both the arrangements and engagement.
Playful, perky and fun, it not only makes for ideal interpretation, but for a great groove as well. Those who favor NRBQ’s more off-kilter concoctions and playful covers may find themselves in alien territory here, but lovers of fine jazz ought to take heed. It’s rare to find chops dished out as adeptly as this.
DOWNLOAD: “Gallop’s Gallop,” “Ruby, My Dear,” “Reflections”