Stephen Gauci ‎– THUNK!

Not Two Records ‎– MW 868-2
CD, Album

Tracklist Hide Credits

1 Bemsha Swing
Arranged By – Kenny Wessel*
2 Ask Me Now
Arranged By – Stephen Gauci
3 Let's Cool One
Arranged By – Michael Bisio
4 Monks Mood
Arranged By – Stephen Gauci
5 Nutty
Arranged By – Stephen Gauci
6 Ruby My Dear
7 Off Minor
Arranged By – Stephen Gauci
8 Well You Needn't
Arranged By – Michael Bisio



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May 17, 2016
Thelonius Monk tributes are relatively comonplace nowadays although using a guitarist instead of a pianist is always a challenge. Mr. Gauci organized a solid working quartet here, one that has played with some regularity over the past few years. I had been hearing great things about this disc for the past year or so and finally getting a chance to hear this week, it is something special. Mr. Gauci is a rare Downtown tenor player who has a superb, well-worn tone and can still play pretty far out. After playing in Ornette's last version of Primetime, guitarist Kenny Wessel has been popping up all over with Karl Berger, Adam Rudolph's Go Organic Orchestra and Badal Roy. Wessel has a swell, jazzy tone which fits perfectly with Gauci's warm, soulful sound.
If the subject of an album of covers songs is pianist Thelonious Monk, then the approach invariably is reverence or its opposite, insolence. Bands either worship at Monk's alter or attempt to out-Monk Monk by counterfeiting eccentricity or outlandishness. To quote the great man, "You've been making the wrong mistakes."
One band not making those wrong mistakes is saxophonist Stephen Gauci's quartet. Its eight Monk covers begin with a bold confidence and ply a determined vigor to this famed canon.
'Thunk!' opens with a hint of funk, as bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Jeremy Carlstedt stroll New Orleans for a pulse. By the time guitarist Kenny Wessel and Gauci enter, the die has been cast. These cats muscle "Bemsha Swing" more as jazz-funk than bebop. While aggressive, the music never comes off as irreverent. Gauci has shared a regular collaboration with Bisio in the bassist's quartet; Bisio also appears on pianist Kris Davis' stellar Three (Clean Feed, 2010), and on Gauci's twin-bassist Basso Continuo group, on Nididyhasana (Clean Feed, 2008).
Tracks like "Monks Mood," "Well You Needn't" and "Off Minor" are played as if pushed by a pugnaciousness that is more New York brusqueness. Credit Bisio's hand, and the producer's choice to mix the drums upfront. Gauci's choice of notes, as his selection of players dictates this mood. The discovery here is Wessel. He favors a supportive role when Gauci solos, but stitches together a running commentary throughout tracks like "Nutty" and dresses up "Ask me Now," in duo with Gauci, that simply elevates the track into a dream state. Gauci's Thunk! book is a veracious take on the brilliance of Thelonious Monk.