The Jazz Bakery presents John Beasley’s MONK’estra Big Band
At Zipper Concert Hall, Colburn School, October 7 at 8pm
Los Angeles – September 7, 2023 –John Beasley shares a birthday with jazz legend Thelonious Monk born on October 10th. With this happy coincidence, since Beasley formed his big band MONK’estra, he has celebrated the double birthday with concerts in Berlin, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo. This year, the festivities take on a more special meaning as we mark the 10th anniversary of the inception of MONK’estra.
“When I was 14, I wrote an arrangement of Eddie Harris’ Freedom Jazz Dance, which won an award at the Berkeley Jazz Festival. The prize was a scholarship to the Stan Kenton jazz camp. And, the Stan Kenton Big Band performed my arrangement that summer. It was a magical experience. Since then, I had dreamed of my own big band,” says pianist, arranger, and bandleader John Beasley.
Fast forward 40 years, John Beasley found himself with time on his hands and thought to reimagine Monk’s music for big band. “It was time to realize my dream and have fun writing what I hear in my head blending the influences now in my DNA from performing, recording and writing music in various genres and platforms whether with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Chucho Valdes, Dianne Reeves, Ivan Lins, Chaka Khan, Queen Latifah, Sergio Mendes, Jon Hassel and film and TV music with Thomas Newman.”
In January 2013 John coined the name MONK’estra. With his first five charts, he called some of the best jazz and session musicians in Los Angeles to play a series of concerts at the beloved jazz club, the Blue Whale. He went on to book almost every venue in Los Angeles to keep developing the sound and getting to know the musicians so that MONK’estra can shape a signature sound. “We were ready then to go into the studio to record,” recalls Beasley. “After that, I shopped the music and Mack Avenue Records responded enthusiastically by offering me a three-record deal in 2017, the centennial year of Thelonious Monk.
MONK’estra Vol 1 was released in 2017, which went on to earn two GRAMMY nominations and 4.5 stars in Downbeat. While touring across the US, Europe and Japan at major festivals and venues, Beasley worked on new arrangements, which led to MONK’estra Vol 2 in 2018. This earned another two GRAMMY nominations.
Jazz Times described Beasley as an “ingenious interpreter of Monk” [with a] “freewheeling Monk big band that draws inspiration from hip-hop, Afro-Cuban polyrhythms and the expansiveness of Quincy Jones. Beasley’s arrangements shift from lush orchestration to taut bass-and-drum ostinatos and rhythmic modulations, and from technically demanding unison passages to open solos performed over improvised instrumental backgrounds. Beasley conducts like Thad Jones, signaling with his hands and face when to extend a solo section or deviate from the written music, gesticulating rather than sitting at the piano bench.”
For the last of the trilogy of MONK’estra records, John arranged more Monk tunes but added original songs in the spirit of Monk, not just for big band but also for trio and septet ensembles. MONK’estra Plays John Beasley earned two more GRAMMY nominations; and Beasley took home a trophy for Best Arrangement for the song Donna Lee in 2020.
On Saturday October 7th, The Jazz Bakery will host the triple birthday celebration of Thelonious Monk, MONK’estra and John Beasley at Zipper Concert Hall, Colburn School in DTLA. Tickets are available now and can be purchased at www.jazzbakery.org
ABOUT JAZZ BAKERY
The Jazz Bakery was founded in 1992 by Ruth Price, a beloved figure in the jazz community. Price is known for her dedication to bringing the best jazz musicians to Los Angeles and for providing a nurturing environment for up-and-coming artists. It is through her uncompromising vision that the Jazz Bakery has achieved international claim for the past 30 years. Ruth continues her legacy by presenting world-class jazz performances in unique venues throughout the city.
DETAILS for CONCERT LISTINGS
CONCERT Celebrating the birth of Monk, MONK’estra and John Beasley
DATE: Saturday, October 7, 2023, 8pm
VENUE: Zipper Concert Hall, Colburn School, DTLA, 200 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Prices: $40 & $30 (student ID)