The first record by the SF-based Monk’s Music Trio, Harmony of Odd Numbers, was 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. Pianist Si Perkoff has found a way to interpret the music that is true to the master’s approach without being merely imitative. He also relishes tackling the more unusual and difficult tunes, and serves as a consistently engaging soloist who often makes you laugh and always makes you tap your foot. Who could ever listen to Monk without doing those two things? This is guaranteed to gratify jazzheads.
Former East Bay resident Andrew Hill has also followed a brilliant 2003 release with another great record, though in his case both titles were recorded early in his career, only to lay forgotten in company vaults for decades. Recorded in 1966, Dance with Death features the pianist with a front line shared by trumpeter Charles Tolliver and saxophonist Joe Farrell, while bassist Victor Sproules and drummer Billy Higgins provide ideal support. The two hornmen do a good job with Hill’s twisty melodies and twisted harmonic schemes, Farrell in particular at the top of his game. But it’s the leader who makes the strongest impression. Hill is at his unpredictable best as a soloist and accompanist, and some of the compositions are real gems.