Randy Weinstein – Harmonimonk (ENG review)

Random Chance Records - Street date May 15th 2024
Randy Weinstein – Harmonimonk

There are certain projects like this one that will make you smile for a good cause from the very first notes. Indeed, this particularly fun project hides the beautiful complexity from which it stems. Here’s what Randy has to say about it: “The HarmoniMonk project appeared to me through a recurring feverish dream, sparked by something I read in Robin D. G. Kelley’s superb biography of Thelonious Monk. Kelley says that Monk’s father played the harmonica. So, imagine, if you will, a young and impressionable Thelonious enchanted by his father recreating the sounds of a fox hunt on his harmonica.” In reality, every musician will notice, upon listening to this album, Randy Wenstein’s extraordinary work in bringing these Monk tunes to the harmonica, which he plays here with a certain elegance. This phantasmagoria enters adolescence by inhaling and exhaling (dis)corded, sharp and precise chords on a harp mounted on a neck brace, while hammering angular gospel polyrhythmic accompaniments on a twisted piano in a stifling revival tent in Alabama.

A few years later, Minton’s boss threatens to kick him out of the house band that saw the birth of bebop if he doesn’t get rid of that “damn tin noisemaker.” Although publicly rejected, the young Monk’s faithful harmonica left its indelible mark. If everything is said here, we understand that like many American musicians, it’s passion and titanic work that allowed this project to come to fruition in this form and offer us an exceptional album. Of course, for this project, it required a harmonica player capable of playing a chromatic harmonica, and Randy expertly makes it sound like no one else. I invite you to listen to it at the end of the review in a blues video from his previous project. It’s always fascinating to see what an artist can communicate about a work with an instrument it wasn’t originally intended for. Here, Randy Wenstein manages to infuse a form of blues intelligently and remarkably into these jazz tracks, to the point of turning “Off Minor” into a reggae form, as I mentioned earlier, this album is both amusing and surprising.

Let’s allow Randy Weinstein to continue: “It didn’t hurt that I was rehearsing and listening to nothing but Monk and his stride mentor ‘The Lion’ before and during the dark early months of Gotham’s lockdown. I was also obsessively experimenting with the applications of the charming and fractured chord possibilities of the chromatic harmonica, so skillfully realized by the great Bill Barrett. And then, out of nowhere, came a fascination with trembling ambient trance music with ghostly tones and drone rhythms. I was quite frightened. Of course, things were falling apart, but some things were coming together. So, I committed to creating groovy tone collages based on Thelonious Monk classics, using multi-tracked harmonicas married with heterogeneous soundscapes invoked by cheap digital technologies. Everyone has their kind of dream, I suppose.” It’s a beautiful adventure that is easily accessible and enjoyable to listen to, for an album with multiple facets that is already “Indispensable” even before its release.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, April 30th 2024

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Buy this album here or here