Preview: MONK'estra at Ronnie's

Pianist, composer and arranger John Beasley brings MONK'estra to Ronnie Scott's for two nights to celebrate the centenary of the great Thelonious Monk

John Beasley's career encompasses playing with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Dianne Reeves and Steely Dan. Beasley (pictured right by Rob Shanahan) has been the music director for International Jazz Day, Queen Latifah, American Idol and many others. He's played on over 100 movie soundtracks including Skyfall and Finding Nemo.

He's also the founder and leader of MONK'estra, a 15-piece big band which he formed to produce fresh arrangements of Monk's classic compositions.

MONK'estra released its first album - MONK'estra Volume 1 - in 2016 and will release Volume 2, also on Mack Avenue Records, on 1 September.

The band (pictured below left by Greg Allen), with Beasley as its conductor, arranger and keyboard player and featuring Peter Erskine on drums, will play at London's Ronnie Scott's Club on Sunday 9 and Monday 10 July.

As well as his work with MONK'estra, Beasley has presented his Monk arrangements with other big bands. Last week I was pleased to see the Latvian Radio Big Band play two concerts in Latvia with Beasley as conductor, arranger and melodica player. The band played Beasley's arrangements of Little Rootie Tootie and other classic Monk numbers. The arrangements made full use of the big band's instrumentation while retaining the wit and originality of Monk's own recordings.

MONK'estra line-up for the Ronnie Scott's concerts is as follows:

John Beasley (conductor); Bijon Watson, Brian Swartz, Rashawn Ross, Dontae Winslow (trumpets); Ryan Dragon, Wendell Kelly, Francisco Torres (woodwinds); Bob Shephard, Tom Luer, Danny Janklow, Adam Schroeder, Joris Roelofs (trombones); Benjamin Shepherd (bass); Peter Erskine (drums).

A video of MONK'estra playing 'Round Midnight can be seen here.

MONK'estra's Sunday evening show is sold out but tickets are still available for both of the Monday shows. For further information and ticket booking please go to the Ronnie Scott's Club website.

Bruce Lindsay


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