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One of Europe’s foremost free improvisers, Alexander von Schlippenbach is also a longtime admirer of Thelonious Monk. He’s previously recorded a trio album of Monk tunes (Light Blue) and, in 2003/04, led a quintet through colourful, swashbuckling versions of Monk’s complete works, captured live on the three-CD set Monk’s Casino. Whereas the quintet’s primary goal was to present a true(ish) account of Monk’s compositions, this solo follow-up is more about Schlippenbach’s own improvisational probing, both in selected Monk pieces and in the brief interludes he’s placed between them. Titles such as Work and Introspection (which he plays twice) signal the tone – there’s little exuberance here; it’s a ruminative, rather toilsome approach, which bypasses the slippery wit and edgy tenderness of Monk’s originals and offers instead only abstruse deliberation. A disappointment.

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