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O’Higgins and Luft: Play Monk & Trane review – a bold take on two greats | Music

This came out a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t let such a bold and deftly performed venture slip away unnoticed with the old year. It’s one thing to create bad imitations of Monk or Coltrane, and quite another to accept the fact that they are to be admired rather than imitated and come up with your own approach. This is what saxophonist Dave O’Higgins and guitarist Rob Luft have done, assisted by organist Scott Flanigan and drummer Rod Youngs.

The opening number, Coltrane’s Naima, is a perfect example. The pensive, brooding quality of the original is replaced by a lighter mood, enlivened by a gentle Latin rhythm. The elegant melody loses none of its charm in the process. Monk’s quirky Locomotive sheds some of his characteristic doggedness, but none of its harmonic Monkishness. His Round Midnight comes as a single exposition of the melody. Some of the Coltrane pieces are not his compositions, although originally played by him. Not that it matters when they’re as good as the sparky Minor Mishap. The playing throughout is quite superb. They even sail through the fiendishly difficult theme of Monk’s Trinkle Tinkle.

Watch O’Higgins and Luft play Like Sonny, from Monk & Trane.


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