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T.S. Monk

2nd Annual Pittsfield City Jazz Festival
Colonial Theatre
Pittsfield, MA
October 14, 2006

by Jeff Waggoner

Tight and Tasty.
That just about sums up the elegant sound of the T.S. Monk Sextet that played October 14  in the newly renovated and spectacular Colonial Theater in Pittsfield as part of the 2nd Annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival.
While Thelonious Sphere Monk Jr. has the unenviable task of following in his legendary father’s giant footsteps, he is acquitting himself magnificently as a drummer, singer, band leader, educator and co-founder of The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, a non-profit education organization. A better advocate of Monk’s music can’t be had.
The T.S. Monk Sextet was an inspired choice for the nascent Pittsfield festival, which is carving a niche for itself among jazz festivals. It’s truly striving to be a “city” jazz festival, a weeklong event that inspires not only jazz lovers, but works to make jazz lovers out of all in Pittsfield.
Monk’s group was made up of --  in addition to Monk himself --  two “established “stars” the talented David Jackson on bass and the phenomenal tenorist Willie Williams, who Monk accurately described as good as it gets in jazz.  He also brought along three young, “rising stars,” Richard Johnson on piano, Tia Fuller on alto sax/flute and James Gibbs on trumpet.
The sextet played burning, but accessible, bop and hard bop that even the uninitiated could enjoy, but played it with the kind of musicianship that buttered up even the most hard bitten, hard-core jazz fan.
In addition to Saturday night’s 8pm concert, the sextet gave a master class at 5pm, which fit in with theme of “all inclusion” that makes this new festival exceptional.
According to festival organizers, the festival included a week-long jazz-in-the-schools program; a free recital by Jazz savant Tony DeBlois; and the appearance of regional artists in restaurants and other Pittsfield venues all weekend. NYC-based JazzReach conducted two workshops for area high schools on October 13.
Obviously, not all the talent at this festival appeared on the stage.  Festival organizer Ed Bride – and many others with the City of Pittsfield -- did a magician’s work to put this all together.

Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Metroland, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times. He lives in Nassau, is a student of jazz saxophone and guitar and can be frequently found at jazz, blues and folk concerts.