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Max Perkoff: Reviews & Media Kit

"Monk's Bones"

Each of these tracks features a Thelonious Sphere Monk composition. However, the homage lends a flavorful, non-52nd street approach to Monk's quintet and solo piano works mainly due to the dueling trombones of Max Perkoff and Roswell Rudd. Rudd, known for his gritty, slippery slike work with Archie Shepp in the 1960's, does not disappoint on this record as he demonstrates remarkable flexibility of range and throaty deviations from the trombone status quo. In fact, Rudd proves to be a dynamic, one-of-a-kind performer. If a fresh approach is what each instrumentalist needs, that inspiration can be found here!

Likewise, the younger Perkoff finds himself firmly rooted in the avant-garde, equipped to cross slikdes in a post-bop skirmish while still ably navigating the more standard approach. The two embark on a number of occasions into plunger solos and the use of other muted textures that benefit the listener by adding coloring as well as a new voice to both melody and solo sections.

The final two tracks of the disc, which utilize a traditional improvisatory approach, include the classics "I Mean You" and "Blue Monk," a tune that captures the musical imagery of the arrangements a la Jay and Kai. Thelonious Monk fans will welcome the arrangements in the more traditional vein as well as those more aggressive, slippery tracks that include many of his great works such as "Friday the Thirteenth" and "Little Rootie Tootie." And, what clebration of the eccentric pianist is complete without a performance of "Round Midnight?"

Monk's Trio is a fine group backing two remarkable trombonists in their adventure into the more avant-garde style of trombone improvisation. With some edgy arrangements and new ideas, MONKS BONES sets itself apart from the pack in any jazz trombone CD collection.

Cory Cunningham - International Trombone Association Journa (Jun 1, 2006)
(You can hear this review most easily by clicking on Video & Audio to your right.)

"The big jazz record of 2005 was a concert recording by Thelonious Monk, who’d died in 1982. Before his death, few jazz musicians specialized in playing his tunes, although there were exceptions like Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd. Since Monk passed, bands on several continents have dedicated themselves to playing his music. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews a new CD by California’s Monk’s Music Trio, joined by a couple of guests.

The Bay Area pianist Si Perkoff knew Thelonious Monk and knows plenty of his tunes. Five or six years ago drummer Chuck Bernstein invited him to join a trio devoted to playing Monk. That was a good idea. Sometimes the pianist’s son, trombonist Max Perkoff would guest with the trio, and then Bernstein had the idea to pair him up with another slide trombonist, the legendary—make that beloved—Roswell Rudd. That was a very good idea. Rudd has played in a few Monk specialty bands going back to the early 60s, and enjoys romping with other trombones. So he took to this lineup like a duck to plum sauce.

Two trombones—that’ll wake anybody up. Especially when they schmear one note up against one right next to it, the way Monk would on piano. I like the previous albums by Monk’s Music Trio, but “Monk’s Bones” leaves ’em in the dust. Bass player Sam Bevan is new to the band, but everybody knows the repertoire so well, they know just how to stay in or out of each other’s way. And you can always tell trombonists apart when Rudd is one of them—he’s always the bigger extravert. Max Perkoff favors a fairly straightforward tone; the integrity of his lines is what counts. Rudd’s improvising is frowsier, often colored by various mutes, to give a more vocalized sound, as in Duke Ellington’s band.

Monk’s tune “Little Rootie Tootie.” Another reason Roswell Rudd has made some great records, aside from the way he plays, is the way he treats the musicians he works with. Rudd is so warm, enthusiastic and committed, so obviously knocked out by what they’re playing, they can’t help feeling motivated.

Thelonious Monk’s compositions are central to the jazz tradition now, but only a couple of decades ago, many musicians found his pieces hard to play. Typically they’d either imitate Monk and his band, playing not too many notes, or they treated his tunes like any other excuse to run their horns. On the CD “Monk’s Bones” you hear five players who really understand the material and play it their own way—some friendly Monkish piano plinks aside. The quintet get the logic of Monk’s pieces, literally get into the swing of them. In the end that’s way more important than how few or many notes they play."

The music of Thelonious Monk has been constructed, reconstructed and deconstructed over the years. Some players have tried to ape him, which is quite natural, but not necessarily successful. Others have filtered his music through their own prisms and have succeeded in introducing different constructs.

Among the latter group are Chuck Bernstein, Si Perkoff, and Sam Bevan--known as Monk’s Music Trio, a name that makes their reason for their being quite clear. On this, their third outing, they bring in trombonists Roswell Rudd and Max Perkoff, the gentlemen responsible for Monk’s bones. And if it must be said, Perkoff got the idea for the name from a book on Duke Ellington’s trombonists called Duke’s Bones.

What is it that makes this music relevant and different? For one, the use of the berimbau on “Friday the 13th.” The single-string instrument resonates in the Delta blues, Bernstein tapping the feel and then getting the percussive shakers to add to the motif. His playing is inspired, entering a different dimension, and for certain it would make Monk salivate. The tune spins as the trombones come in and churn blues and funk into a dizzying sphere.

The trombones orchestrate a slow motion intro to “Blue Monk.” But this, one of Monk’s most beautiful and melodic tunes, gets its blues blooding from Perkoff, whose inventive runs sit on the edge of deliberation. Roswell, who has played Monk before with compelling results, uses a wah-wah to growl out his solo, quite contrary to Perkoff's smooth approach. In countenance, the two strike sides that later channel into an edgy, angular and exciting dialogue. The swell breaks out on “Little Rootie Tootie,” the trombones trading phrases with the piano, the bass ticking below, the drums driving the pulse. Rudd sounds earthy and in character; Si Perkoff takes off on a melodic excursion, stamping his journey with points of exclamation. The whole makes for one intoxicating ride, like this engaging and heady recording.
Except for a surrealistic version of “Friday The 13th,” Monk’s Bones offers straightforward interpretations of nine Thelonious Monk compositions. The third recording by Monk’s Music Trio adds the trombones of Roswell Rudd, a longtime exponent of Monk’s work, and Max Perkoff, the son of the band’s pianist, Si Perkoff.

All of the tracks profit from the differences between Rudd’s eccentric Dixieland-to-1960s-avant-garde effusions and the younger Perkoff’s full-bodied, more conventional style. Some of the record’s finest moments consist of the slippery horns’ skewed interaction during the heads and wily commentary on each other’s solos.

En route to a low-keyed conclusion, Rudd’s solo on “Little Rootie Tootie” conflates jabbing blats, pregnant silences, and forlorn howls that move in slow motion against the rhythm section. Max Perkoff’s turn on “Blue Monk” begins with fluid, dancing lines that show off his rich sound. About halfway through Perkoff becomes more deliberate, and his tone adopts a strident, burr-like quality.

Si Perkoff, bassist Sam Bevan, and drummer Chuck Bernstein make essential contributions to the band’s overall sound. In concert with Bevan’s sturdy walking line, Perkoff’s incisive comping enlivens his son’s performance of “San Francisco Holiday.” Keeping the snare drum accents to a minimum, Bernstein elicits a variety of textures from his cymbals while maintaining a firm groove throughout Si Perkoff’s “Blue Monk” solo.
Think of One: A swinging trio with two outrageous trombones.

If you’re wondering whether this is just another Thelonious Monk tribute, think again, because the Monk's Music Trio ups the ante in every way, continuing to creatively explore the music of one of jazz's most celebrated pianists. Monk’s Bones is the trio’s third release, following Harmony of Odd Numbers and Think of One. Led by jazz drummer Chuck Berstein, pianist Si Perkoff, and bassist Sam Bevan, the latest recording is now more brightly lit with the addition of two trombones played by master trombonist Roswell Rudd and Max Perkoff (Si Perkoff’s son).

The trio's previous recordings were already tight, and now with the new brass, the music adopts a more flamboyant and spirited persona. Odd arrangements are a staple of Monk tunes, and the trio exploits this with the added horns. The trombones start the melody on ”Monk's Dream” with the piano bringing up the rear and everyone adding great solos. The horns (usually with one muted) are like a pair of lovers that moan, quarrel, or sing in harmony. There’s a sense of wit and style, done with impeccable musicianship and an emphasis on maintaining the essence of Monk, but also creating music that feels good.

Monk’s music is about swing and varied moods, and the quintet extracts the most out of these selections. “San Francisco Holiday” bops heartily, “Blue Monk” moans a soulful lament, but the most outrageous rendition goes to “Friday the 13th,” where Bernstein plays a berimbau (Brazilian single-stringed percussion instrument) along with the trombones and an excellent bass solo which gives the tune an aboriginal Delta blues vibe. Hats off again to the Monk’s Music Trio for another glowing recording.
As the title suggests, Monk's Music Trio has brought in a pair of guest trombonists for this, their third release. Roswell Rudd and Max Perkoff are contrasting players from different generations. The elder Rudd is the boisterous iconoclast while Perkoffs harkens to the smoother tones of J.J. Johnson. Monk's catalog is a finite and familiar book, so there are no real surprises here. Rather, the elastic movements of the dual trombones underscore Monk's wholly unique manner with meter. This is a strength of the trio as well, with Si Perkoff embracing both the percussive and melodic possibilities of the piano. The CD cover's stylized apperance (by Haight-Ashbury mainstay Alton Kelly) comes from a visual language by now so culturally fixed with the Grateful Dead and their musical mindset that it begs a question of intent. While the improvisational paths of Garcia and company were generally based on rising and falling tides in a modal ocean, building to and receding from sonic density, these improvisations on Monk's music need to follow the alluring twists in the road. In fact, so compelling re the rhythmic and melodic underpinnings that an adherence to them allows for the often stunning solos gathered on this disc, singular in their voicings as well as being perfectly in sync with each composition's subtle demands.
David Greenberger - Signal To Noise, The Journal of Improvised & Experimental Music (Apr 5, 2006)
Once in a while, a gem falls into the laps of jazz listeners. Monk’s Bones is one of them.

The newest release by the Monk’s Music Trio will hit the shelves of record stores on February 1st. The trio’s last album Think of One received critical applause. Pianist Si Perkoff, bassist Sam Bevan and drummer Chuck Bernstein turn up the heat adding a trombone duo to the group. It’s not “just any” pair of trombonists. It’s Max Perkoff and the venerable Roswell Rudd. While Rudd is perhaps better known to most jazz fans, it’s often difficult to determine who is taking the solo. The trombonists are exciting and sound like they played together forever.

At one time, Monk’s compositions were considered quirky, far out and even outrageous. Now his music is loved by everyone. This CD will make you love it even more.

The trio offers nine perfectly arranged and executed Monk favorites. A glorious reading of “Ugly Beauty” and a classic interpretation of “’Round Midnight” just have to be heard. Si Perkoff’s piano solo on “Ugly Beauty” is beautifully understated and the conversation between the horns is warm and charming. Not since clarinetist, Pee Wee Russell’s recording of “Blue Monk,” have I heard a group express such an enchanting traditional and witty approach to a Thelonious Monk tune.

It should be mentioned that Roswell Rudd celebrated his 70th birthday last autumn. Rudd’s first recording was with Eli’s Chosen Six, a Dixieland outfit at Yale. A couple of the musicians from that 1956 band showed up and jammed with Rudd at his party.

Monk’s Music Trio and their guests will be appreciated by all Monk fans. Monk’s Bones is a flawless presentation leaving the listener looking for more. Five gold stars!
Before Thelonious Monk purists start speculating on the potential morbidity of the title of Monk's Music Trio's third lushly rendered exploration of the legendary pianist's catalog, the truth must be told: it was inspired by the name of a book on the Ellington trombone section Roswell Rudd (who along with Max Perkoff, son of group pianist Si Perkoff, forms a welcome new trombone section) had been reading prior to the date. The trio's desire to show Duke's keen influence on Monk is no doubt the driving force behind the addition of the horn to the trio's core sound. Monk never much used trombone on his own recordings, but judging from the happy results here, he definitely should have. They add a lush harmonic texture to a faithful reading of "'Round Midnight" that plays a lot like Miles Davis' version -- only led by Si Perkoff's tender piano melody. Yet it's on the up-tempo tunes where the percussive nature of the new horn sound shines brightest. The lively, swinging train song "Little Rootie Tootie" begins with the horns blowing a call-and-response whistle with Si Perkoff's percussive piano, and the horns swirl hypnotically throughout. The similarly playful "San Francisco Holiday" was featured on the trio's previous release, but the two horns add enough of a newfound playful spirit to merit a new twist here. The 'bones also come in handy on the strangely intriguing avant-garde rendering of "Friday the Thirteenth," which begins with drummer Chuck Bernstein playing blues on the Brazilian one-stringed berimbau.
The role of Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917-1982) in the formation of what became the modern jazz scene has been documented extensively in the years since his death. As popular as he remains to this very day, he is scarcely imitated. Monk’s compositions are some of the most notoriously hard-to-play works in all of American music. Only the very best players can play Monk tunes with any hope of credibility, and even then such excursions are rare. Miles Davis was one of the few top talents to make regular use of more than one, and his are the definitive non-Monk versions of “Straight, No Chaser”.

There are a couple of very notable exceptions. One is Carmen Sings Monk, a 1991 album that paired the late Carmen McRae with a set of Monk tunes, augmented with the lyrics of Jon Hendricks (of the vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross); this remains the only significant vocal rendering of Monk’s music to date. Another would be the late Steve Lacy, a veteran soprano saxophonist who in the late-1960s chose to devote the bulk of his remaining 30-plus years focusing exclusively on Monk tunes. He remains the all-time leading interpreter of Monk on record. The single-best recording of Monk’s music must be Anthony Braxton’s Six Monk’s Compositions (1987), in particular the Braxton quartet’s take on the infamous “Brilliant Corners”.

Does anything on Monk’s Bones match up to that standard? Certainly. This is the third album by Monk’s Music Trio—Si Perkoff, Sam Bevan, and Chuck Bernstein—but the first in which the trio is augmented by extra musicians, one of whom is a certifiable Hall-of-Famer. The addition of Roswell Rudd for this session is spot-on, adding heaps of gravitas and personal experience with the music. The absence of reeds is noticeable, since Monk’s most famous interpreters (Coltrane, Johnny Griffin Charlie Rouse, Steve Lacy) have tended to be saxophonists, but it’s hardly a detriment since the brass is so capable.

Max Perkoff, the son of Si, is the youngest of the group, but that is discernible only from pictures. He plays with a healthy, mature sense of balance, avoiding the temptation to overblow. They get a nice contrapuntal growl going on “Round Midnight,” laying down one of the best takes ever of this much-covered composition. (The definitive Monk version is a 20-minute solo fantasia on the reissued Thelonious Himself CD.)

Pianist Perkoff leads the group, as he must. He plays as if liberated from the task of holding down the melody. It would be awfully hard to consistently play Monk in these contexts without a pianist who has a personal familiarity with the music. This has been the undoing of more than one Monk cover: the horn men can catch up mid-stream, but the rhythm must be on from the start. This is the case here.

Almost all of the album mines a similar vein, tasty and competent, but a bit restrained. There is nothing truly visionary on display—nothing, that is, until the final track, “Friday the Thirteenth,” which has always been one of Monk’s less-accessible songs. The quintet takes a ten-minute excursion into the densest of muted effects over a galloping, almost Latin beat. This track not only raises the bar for Monk covers, setting a standard that may be useful to themselves and others in the years to come, but it also elevates Monk’s Bones from an album of interest to Monkophiles only to one of the best jazz releases of the new year.
"In theory, this record should be a disaster. A two trombone quintet playing Monk?!? Even on the first couple of listens, the eyebrows were definitely raised. But then, it began to sink in: how many people appreciated Mr. Sphere himself on the first listen? Little by little, this disc began to make more sense. Bone masters Roswell Rudd and Max Perkoff share the double duty of not only stating the themes of Monk's music, but the eccentric tones as well. With the trio playing the music essentially straight and mainstream, Perkoff and Rudd play the role of Monk's extended fingers and pounding feet, reaching for those distinct notes, harmonies and pedal sounds that made Monk so frighteningly foreboding to begin with.

For instance, on "Crepuscule With Nellie", the trombones take the sounds of Monks searching and left hand, and mix it with the pounding and bent right hand until it sounds like the inner workings of Monk's mind. On "Round Midnight", the horns are deep, dark and disturbing, almost harkening to co-composer Cootie Williams' wah-wah trumpet. "Little Rootie Tootie" sounds like the little train that could, and "Blue Monk" is almost New Orlean in concept. Each piece has its own special penetration into the grey matter of Monk's Mind. As with Monk himself, this recording brings out thoughts and reflections you didn't know you had. A fun and enlightening way to revisit Monk's sphere."
George W. Harris - All About Jazz LA (Jan 4, 2006)
Monk's Music Trio Monk's Bones (CMB Records CB 102842)

The compositions of Thelonious Monk are as deep and intriguing as the man himself and have long provided his heirs and successors with a rich repertoire through which they can preserve and celebrate his memory. The name adopted by this San Francisco-based trio makes clear their affiliation. The three are Si Perkoff, piano, Sam Bevan, bass, and Chuck Bernstein, who plays drums, leads the trio and is also the producer. They are all very able musicians who draw interestingly from the rich storehouse of music left by one of jazz's most remarkable individuals whose music deserves its loved and respected place in the jazz canon and this trio does well by it. On the second of these CDs two trombone players are added: Roswell Rudd and Max Perkoff. The result expands upon the possibilities signposted by the composer and, as Rudd comments: 'It's a challenging adventure, but we have our hearts, minds and ears open and no end of passion for this glorious work.' Rudd's enthusiasm for the material allied to that of his fellow trombonist, who is incidentally Si's son, matches that of the trio. The result is joyous music. I have to acknowledge a mild preference for the second CD because of the added texture brought by the horns, but both are worth your time."
WHILE THELONIOUS MONK didn’t work with a trombonist very often, Monk’s Music Trio demonstrates on Monk’s Bones that the ’bone fits perfectly with Monk’s tunes. Pianist
Si Perkoff, drummer Chuck
Bernstein, and bassist Sam Bevan add a pair of trombonists to their third release, the legendary Roswell Rudd and Bay Area ’bonist (and son of Si) Max Perkoff.

The trombone tandem is a perfect fit for the quirkiness and inherent humor of the familiar Monk tunes
especially on the more uptempo numbers. The ebullient performances are fun and fresh, with just enough discordance in the trombone leads to jolt the listener to attention. “Monk’s Dream,” “Crepuscule With Nellie,” and “San Francisco Holiday” are good upbeat places to start, while the stark take on “’Round Midnight” and the jaunty “Blue Monk” provide a bit of emotional contrast.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this group resurrects
Monk in all his quirkiness. All of the soloists inject Monk into all of
their soliloquies. Monk fans will adore it with all of its dissonance
and cacophony.

Trombones rule the day in "Round Midnight" (the highlight of this
recording). This is one of Thelonious Monk's most introspective and revered compositions. The 'bones work it for all its worth.

"Blue Monk" has been described as an inebriated musical piece due to its languorous style and pace. Here it is in all its glory.

This is an album for true Monk aficionados. 3 Stars

Thelonious Monk's piano playing was full of angles and percussion. His compositions sprang from his piano style -- melody is rhythm; rhythm is melody. To improvise effectively on a Monk tune requires more formality than simply running through the chord changes. As a starting point, you must get inside the composer's musical logic. This doesn't necessarily mean imitating him, but it does mean, in most cases, carving and chiseling rather than molding your phrases.

Si Perkoff, the pianist in Monk's Music Trio, a group dedicated exclusively to Monk's compositions, understands and communicates this as convincingly as such celebrated Monk interpreters as trombonist Roswell Rudd and the late saxophonists Steve Lacy and Charlie Rouse. Monk's Music Trio, led by drummer Chuck Bernstein, has been in business since 1999. "Monk's Bones" (CMB Records), its third album, expands on the trio format of its previous releases by adding Rudd and fellow trombonist Max Perkoff, the pianist's son. Sam Bevan is the group's bassist.

The trombonists show contrasting creative approaches. Rudd, an old hand at Monk -- he and Lacy led a Monk-only quartet in the early '60s -- is full of craggy good humor. He'd rather slide down the jagged stairway of melody than leap or tread in regular intervals. Max Perkoff is more the bebopper with a lyrical bent.

The trio, which can give the impression of Monk's presence, relies not only on Si Perkoff's sound but also on Bernstein's interplay and tap dancelike solos and Bevan's solid walking and percussive solos. Veteran Bernstein often recalls Monk Quartet drummers Frankie Dunlop and Ben Riley.

The album includes the tunes "Monk's Dream," "Ugly Beauty," "Little Rootie Tootie," " 'Round Midnight" and "Blue Monk," among others.