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Published on May 20, 2018

John Beasley's MONK+MONK'estra is a cinematic-concert performance where Thelonious Monk "performs" on stage with Beasley's 15-piece big band MONK'estra.

With the use of rare film footage MONK’estra underscores the legendary pianist’s solos or Beasley adds his startlingly inventive rethinking of Monk's masterpieces to the Monk Quartet’s own renditions.

“I was lucky to find these brilliant films ‘Monk’ and ‘Monk in Europe,’ made by Michael and Christian Blackwood,” Beasley continues. In 1968, the Blackwoods followed and filmed Monk as he toured and played in New York at the Village Vanguard, at the Newport Jazz Festival, and then in Europe. With filmmaker Stefan Forbes and music editor Bill Bernstein, Beasley stitched together this vintage film footage into a vision of the live performance.

Video concert footage: World Premiere at Walt Disney Music Hall, March 2018
Vintage video footage: 'Monk and ‘Monk in Europe' by Michael and Christian Blackwood,”

Katherine McVicker, MusicWorksInternational.com
Myles Weinstein, UnlimitedMyles.com


REVIEWS: Walt Disney Hall concert
Stage and Cinema
MONK+MONK’estra was so magical and so transcendent, I am at a loss for words to describe it.
Projected on a screen above the stage –clips of Monk performing at the Village Vanguard, at a recording session, strolling New York in 1968– these sequences were incorporated into the music so that Monk himself was actually playing along with the band on stage. Brilliant execution by John Beasley and MONK’estra.

Laura Connelly:Vice President, Presentations, LA Philharmonic/Hollywood Bowl
John Beasley’s cinematic concert was thrilling because he brought Thelonious Monk –through great documentary footage– to play solos with his big band MONK’estra on stage at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Jeff Beal, TV/film composer
Loved the use of the screen to celebrate Monk and his music.
Great arrangements and vibe from the band - absolutely nothing nostalgic about this - very fresh, and hip.

Robin Kelly, author Thelonious Monk biography
The performance was FABULOUS! Film was very well done with breathtaking moments.

Thomas Newman, TV/film composer
Tonight was just fantastic. What a group! What an endeavor!

Robert Kraft, Former President of Fox Music (300 films)
Fantastic show. Loved hearing MONK’estra playing live with picture...particularly when the band accompanied the solos by Thelonious Monk himself!

MONK’estra is a 15-piece big band featuring the music of Thelonious Monk as wildly re-imagined by arranger and pianist John Beasley. His precision-crafted arrangements capture the spirit and singular style of Monk’s compositions – rife with off-beat melodies, humor, strange beauty, and pure swing – while reflecting the entire range of Beasley’s eclectic influences and career. Yet even in this most contemporary of settings, with startling new colors, harmonies, and grooves unheard in Monk’s day, the essence of his songs remains intact.

MONK’estra’s core personnel include many of the finest ensemble players and soloists playing today. In the course of thirteen months, Mack Avenue Records released two of the band’s albums: MONK’estra Vol. 1 (2016) and MONK’estra Vol. 2 (2017). Each earned GRAMMY nominations for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and Best Arrangement (“Ask Me Now” from Vol. 1 and the mashup of “Ugly Beauty/Pannonica” from Vol.2).

John Beasley's MONK'estra Big Band
John Beasley: conductor / arranger / piano / creative director

Bijon Watson, Rashawn Ross, James Ford, Brian Swartz

Francisco Torres, Wendell Kelly, Ryan Dragon

Danny Janklow, Tom Luer, Tom Peterson, Adam Schroeder, Kirsten Edkins

Bass: Benjamin J. Shepherd
Drums: Terreon Gully

Stefan Forbes, creative director
Bill Bernstein , music editor


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