"This self-produced CD could easily get lost in the shuffle, but it is a contender for my list of best blues recordings of the year (2008)."
Jazz.com and author of Delta Blues
"Who would have guessed that a single-string steel wire stretched atop a willowy limb hooked up to a hollowed-out gourd could produce so much music? Well, with a little help from friends like Roswell Rudd and George Marsh, percussionist Chuck Bernstein (best known to the jazz world as drummer-leader of San Francisco's acclaimed Monk's Music Trio) has brought the African-Brazilian folk instrument to the fore with a collection of energizing and exotic soundscapes that make the aptly titled "Delta Berimbau Blues" a journey beyond category. From "Plunger in the Funk" and "Viola Foot Stompin' Blues" to "Dawn in the Delta", Bernstein and friends are unforgetable!"
(University of Kansas; Downbeat; Jazz Times)
"Very nice album, quite soulful and terrific-sounding."
Master Jazz Drummer
"Every track raises the bar for World Music. You are an original!
Master Jazz Trombonist
"Chuck is presenting a whole new groove adventure with his "Delta Berimbau Blues."
King of the Funky Drums
"-----I'm totally blown away! Great work, wonderful compositions, and the guests are really cool."
Author, Royal Crown Revue
"Kudos should go to Bernstein for attempting something so singularly unique."
Micheal G. Nastos
All Music Guide
"Definitely a one of a kind sound and recording. You can feel the mud between your toes on this one."
George W. Harris
"Overall the results are quite rewarding----many tracks----particularly the blues guitar collaborations---have an immediacy and vitality that is legitimately compelling."
"Chuck Bernstein's "Delta Berimbau Blues" pulls off the impossible trick of recasting the Delta Blues in an entirely new light while remaining faithful to its original spirit. -----it would be hard to come up with another blues record that's as innovative and pure-sounding for this year or most other years, for that matter."
"----whatever the setting, there's a deeply delved mesmeric quality to its primordial sound, which conjures up ancient spirits and forgotten tribal sensibilities. There's a natural affinity between various Mississippi Delta blues styles and the berimbau, brilliantly brought out by Chuck Bernstein."
Jan P. Dennis
"But, the more you listen to it, the more you hear the stylisitic divisions yielding to the intensity and devotion at the heart of the recording. And the more fun you have with it."
"Delta Berimbau Blues" is not your typical blues album, but it's that reason alone that makes this a worthwhile listen, as it takes the blues out of its normal home, takes it to Brazil and brings it back, showing that any sound can be turned into the blues with the right knowledge and appreciation from the best musicians."
"In ending his liner notes to "Delta Berimbau Blues" Chuck Bernstein boldly states, "my goal from the beginning has been to make the berimbau a new voice in American music--". He has accomplished just that here and we can look forward to hearing much more."
"I've listened to your CD. So Beautiful. Mixing different styles of music, you take the berimbau to new horizons. Congratulations!"
Brazilian Master Percussionist
"Organized by drummer Chuck Bernstein in 1999, "Monk's Music Trio" is a compact powerhouse that while celebrating the enduring legacy of Monk is also a testament to the spirits, and vision of three very talented musicians. Viva la Monk! Viva la "Monk's Music Trio."
Dr. Chuck Berg - Professor and Chair of Theatre and film at the Univ. of Kansas, Downbeat, Coda, Jazz Times, Jazz Educators Journal and the Oxford Companion to Jazz
"Chuck Bernstein and crew play their hearts out here, and do their part quite well in keeping Monk's legacy alive and well."
Edward Blanco - ejazznews.com
"The result is another keeper, the latest in an excellent series of self-produced releases."
International Association of Jazz Record Collectors
"There is no attempt on their part to copy the sound or style of Monk. They simply play great songs with originality and a respect for the music."
Joe Lang - "Jersey Jazz" October 2007
"Giving Monk the righteous royal treatment you can expect from a crack tribute crew, this trio is on point throughout and will not disappoint even the most hard core Monk fan."
Chris Spector - 2007 Midwest Record
"If you enjoy lively bebop, great piano, magical bass tones, a little more in your face drums, then the CD, "Monk on Mondays" is tailored for you."
Joe Montague - rivetingriffs.com
"If I ever get to San Francisco, I'm going to make sure it's on a Monday so I can drop in at Simple Pleasures Cafe' in the Richmond District. But until I get to San Francisco, this amazing recording of Thelonious Monk compositions will have to do."
Dick Bogle - thescanner.com
"Monk's Music Trio" is a fine group backing two remarkabe trombonists in their adventure into the more avant-garde style of trombone improvisation. With some edgy arrangements and new ideas, "Monk's Bones" sets itself apart from the pack in any jazz trombone CD collection."
International Tombone Association Journal
The Swing Journal--Japan
"On the CD, "Monk's Bones", you hear five players who really understand the material and play it their own way. The Quintet get the logic of Monk's pieces, literally get into the swing of them. In the end, that's way more important than how few or many notes they play."
National Public Radio--- "Fresh Air"
"It's going to be a hell of a year if this doesn't turn out to be one of the best jazz cds of 2006."
Richard "Duck" Baker
"Once in awhile, a gem falls into the laps of jazz listeners. "Monk's Bones" is one of them."
" Monk's Bones" is a flawless presentation leaving the listener looking for more. Five Gold Stars!"
Jazz Review. Com
"If this record doesn't make you grin like a fool, you're a grinch." "They are Monk acolytes, scholars and interpreters of the first order....,"
"This track ("Friday the Thirteenth") not only raises the bar for Monk covers, setting a standard that may be useful to themselves and others in the years to come, but it also elevates "Monk's Bones" from an album of interest to Monkophiles only to one of the best jazz releases of the new year."
"A splendid CD."
Ferdinard Maylin - www.Jazznow.com
"...if you've never heard this trio before, and you're a dedicated jazz fan, you've GOT to put this one in your collection. It gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating, without any hesitation! Some of the best "Monk music" you'll ever be privileged to hear."
Rotcod Zzaj - Improvijazzation Nation (Issue #68 Reviews)
"The first CD by San Francisco-based Monk's Music Trio, "Harmony of Odd Numbers",was one one of the best jazz CDs of 2003. The follow-up is just as good--to put it simply, nobody does Monk better than these guys."
Richard "Duck" Baker - East Bay Express 3/2/05
"This CD is straight jazz, great listening, with Strong Monk interpretations. The varied, versatile rhythms add swing to exotic percussive combinations."
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower - www.robertaonhearts.com
"If you like the music of Thelonious Monk, you will like this session by Monk's Music Trio. Each of them shares a love for Monk's Music that comes through during the performance."
D. Oscar Groomes - O's Place Jazz Newsletter (1/23/05)
"Although there are no new interpretations of the classics, the music is performed with a fervent passion and results in a strong recording that clearly articulates the essence of Monk. This trio simply does Monk justice."
Mark F. Turner - AllAboutJazz.com
"Monk's Music Trio plays 13 selections here from Monk's Canon and admirably succeeds in putting its stamp on the jazz giant's work."
Larry Taylor - jazzreview.com
Monk's fans will appreciate this versatile conception of his tunes as well as the trio's ability to avoid a note-for-note stylish ripoff."
Paula Edelstein - www.soundsofttimelessjazz.com
"Can somebody please bring this trio to Europe? To adapt what Sonny Rollins said of a more pianistically idiosyncratic Monk specialist, does anybody realize how good these guys are? Vivifying!"
Robert R. Calder - www.popmatters.com
"Here's a surprise; a trio of San Francisco-based veterans unknown outside of the Bay Area have turned in one of the best all-Monk recordings this writer has has the pleasure of hearing."
Duck Baker - Coda Magazine
"Through this group, Monk continues to live his dream posthumously."
George W. Carroll - The Musician's Ombudsman
"They are polished Bay Area musicians who do justice to these new arrangements of Monk's Tunes. They understand an important principle in the correct interpretations of Monk's work: what's not played is as important as the notes you hear."
D. Oscar Groomes - O's Place Jazz Newsletter
"They don't smooth out Monk's natural wrinkles or jagged edges, and that's good."
Art Lange - E Pulse
"Harmony of Odd Numbers is a magical listening experience. The Monk's Music Trio debuts as leaders among interpreters in a world of imitators."
Scott Gotschall - 2003 JazzReview.com
"Does this CD swing? You'd better believe it."
Russ Chase - International Association of Jazz Record Collectors
"The trio's careful attention to appropriate tempos and dynamics is the core of their approach. These lovely performances are rich with impressive details...Definitely recommended, and a worthy addition to the ever-expanding shelf of all-Monk projects."
Stuart Kremsky - Cadence Magazine 11/03
ANDREW GILBERT: JAZZ TALK
Monk's Music helps drummer find his groove
CHUCK BERNSTEIN has been kicking around the Bay Area jazz scene since the mid-1960s, a player good enough to get regular gigs but never enough to quit his day job.
While playing jazz and blues by night, the San Francisco native spent years driving a cab, selling trap sets at Drumland and contributing stories to Modern Drummer magazine. In the late '90s, however, he was inspired to create Monk's Music Trio, a group dedicated to exploring the endlessly wondrous music of the late pianist/composer Thelonious Monk.
Featuring veteran pianist Si Perkoff, who was friends with the great composer, and a succession of bassists, Monk's Music released a couple of impressive albums and helped pave the way for Bernstein to devote himself to jazz full time. Playing regularly at Jazz at Pearl's and Simple Pleasures Coffee House in the Richmond District, the group honed a huge repertoire of Monk tunes, including many not often tackled by other musicians.
The band's third CD, "Monk's Bones" (CMB Records), came out earlier this year and has deservedly attracted a good deal of attention, including glowing reviews in Down Beat magazine and on National Public Radio. Along with Perkoff on piano, the album features bassist Sam Bevan, Max Perkoff (Si's son) on trombone, and, in a major coup, trombonist Roswell Rudd, one of jazz's most inventive improvisers.
The unusual instrumentation turns out to be a highly effective vehicle for investigating Monk's knotty compositions, drawing out the deep Ellingtonian resonances in his music. For Bernstein, the concept came in a fully formed flash of inspiration.
"I heard two trombones in my head playing Monk, but not any two trombonists, I heard Roswell Rudd and Max Perkoff," Bernstein said during a recent conversation at the Jazzschool in downtown Berkeley, where his band will be celebrating the release of "Monk's Bones" on Friday with Rudd. The quintet also plays on Saturday at Jazz at Pearl's in North Beach.
While the two previous Monk's Music albums focused on more obscure tunes, "Monk's Bones" features some of Monk's best-known pieces, such as "Blue Monk," "Monk's Dream" and the ravishing ballads "'Round Midnight" and "Crepuscule With Nellie."
The arrangements are marked by Bernstein's spare but driving trap work and the trombonists' contrasting styles.
"I gave people music they're familiar with, but in a way they've never heard it," Bernstein said. "Monk always liked the music to have a dancing quality, because when the music was swinging, he got up and danced. On 'Monk's Bones,' you can dance to every track. That was very important to me."
Rudd was one of the first musicians to champion Monk's compositions as an oeuvre of the highest order. He last performed in the Bay Area in 2004 at the Palace of the Fine Arts Theatre as part of a San Francisco Jazz Festival tribute to Monk and soprano saxophone great Steve Lacy.
It was with Lacy back in the mid-'60s that Rudd formed the band School Days, the first group devoted exclusively to playing Monk's music. With roots in Dixieland, Rudd went on to collaborate with some of jazz's most galvanizing improvisers, such as Cecil Taylor and Archie Shepp.
"Roswell is rough and in your face, and the funniest soloist in jazz," Bernstein said. "He's beyond style. It's like listening to Monk. When you hear Roswell, you hear the whole history of that music: the past, present and future."
For Bernstein, the fruition of "Monk's Bones" is more than a creative triumph. It's validation for a late-blooming musician who is coming into his own at the age of 65. He credits his association with Si Perkoff and the discipline of playing Monk's music for making him a better drummer, and a musician ready for prime time.
"For a guy at my age to be playing at the good clubs, it's all the sweeter," Bernstein said. "Everybody with me has been playing full time. I'm the kid nobody hired. I'm the kid who didn't get picked. I started performing in 1951 as a tap dancer and singer. It took me all my life to do this. Never let your dreams go."
Details: Monk's Music performs 8 p.m. Friday at the Jazzschool, 2087 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets are $18. Roswell Rudd is offering a workshop on Monk at the Jazzschool from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday. For tickets and information, contact 510-845-5373 or www.jazzschool.com. Monk's Music also performs 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday at Jazz at Pearl's, 256 Columbus Ave., S.F. Tickets are $15. Contact 415-291-8255 or www.jazzatpearls.com.
© 2006 Chuck Bernstein