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John Beasley - piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer
Saxophones/Woodwinds: Bob Sheppard. Banny Janklow, Chris Lewis, Tom Peterson, Adam Schroeder, Tom Luer
Trombones: wendell Kelly, Ryan Dragon, Ido Meshulam, Steve Hughes, Francisco Torres
Trumpets/Flugelhorns: Bijon Watson, Kye Palmer, James Ford, Brian Swartz, Rashawn Ross
Bass: John Patitucci, Benjamin Shepherd
Drums: Vinne Colaiuta, Ulysses Owens, Jr., Terreon Gully
Conga: Joey De Leon
Synthesizer: Steve Tavaglione
Percussion, Shaker: Terreon Gully
Guest Appearances by:
Grégoire Maret - Harmonica
Joey DeFrancesco - Hammond B3 Organ
Hubert Laws - Flute
Jubilant Sykes - Vocals
Ralph Moore - Tenor Saxophone
Over the course of two albums, bandleader/composer/arranger John Beasley has reimagined Thelonious Monk’s iconic compositions through his inventive, versatile MONK’estra – a big band able to deftly navigate the legend’s eccentricities from a variety of perspectives, from boisterous swing to raucous funk to Afro-Cuban explosiveness. MONK’estra, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 each garnered a pair of GRAMMY® Award nominations, alongside widespread critical acclaim. Beasley veers off in new directions on his stunning third album in the series, MONK’estra Plays John Beasley. As the title implies, this time out the band shifts focus to its fearless leader’s own estimable compositions and piano playing, alongside a quartet of Monk classics and a tune apiece by Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.
Born in Louisiana, Beasley started writing arrangements in junior high school, which sparked the attention of Jimmy Lyons—the founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival—who recommended him for a scholarship at the Stan Kenton summer jazz camp. The pianist cut his teeth with Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard in the 1980s and has since performed and recorded with a who’s who of artists including, Steely Dan, Dianne Reeves, Chaka Khan, Christian McBride, Sergio Mendes, Herbie Hancock, John Patittucci, Al Jarreau, George Duke, Queen Latifah and AR Rahman, among others.
Living in Hollywood, Beasley juggled a touring musician’s schedule while working in studios composing for award-winning television sitcoms including Fame, Cheers, Family Ties, Star Trek, to name a few. He has worked with multiple Oscar-nominated film composer Thomas Newman for three decades on credits including James Bond Spectre and Skyfall, Get On Up: James Brown, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel I & II, Finding Nemo & Finding Dory, Wall-E, Shawshank Redemption and more. In the era of reality singing shows, Beasley was Lead Arranger for the juggernaut American Idol and helped usher in Carrie Underwood to victory in 2005 as Associate Musical Producer. He directed several TV shows, including Duets, Sing Your Face Off, and Sports Illustrated, 50th Anniversary.
While touring with Miles Davis, Beasley was inspired to make his first of eleven recordings, Cauldron—which was produced by Walter Becker of Steely Dan-and went on to earn a GRAMMY® Award-nomination for his 2011 release Positootly!.
He has since served as musical director for the Thelonious Monk Institute’s gala concerts since 2011, guiding legends and the next generation of jazz greats through all-star tributes to Quincy Jones, Bill Clinton, George Duke and Aretha Franklin. Also, since UNESCO’s inauguration of International Jazz Day in 2012, Beasley has directed each global annual concert from Paris, Istanbul, Osaka, Cuba to the notable concert at the White House in 2016 hosted by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Beasley seamlessly shaped the televised Jazz at the White House concert featuring Aretha Franklin, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joey Alexander and Sting through a night of swing and celebration. This earned him an Emmy nomination.
Beasley continues to be a chameleon putting on many hats as the calls come in. He co-produced two albums with Weather Report’s Peter Erskine, the first, Dr.Um, earned a 2017 GRAMMY® nomination. For two seasons, he directed the Toyota Symphonies for Youth: “Jazz and the Orchestra” for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Soul, blues and gospel singer Ruthie Foster engaged John to arrange songs for her performance with the Latvian Radio Big Band, which he conducted last month. For Thelonious Monk’s centennial celebration in Los Angeles, Angel City Jazz has appointed Beasley as Artistic Director. He has programmed an Afro-Cuban band to feature a classic recording Carmen Sings Monk with Dee Dee Bridgewater. The second set will feature DJs reimagining Beasley’s MONK’estra Vol. 1 imaginations of Thelonious Monk’s genius compositions.
John Beasley’s MONK’estra World Tour Info: www.JohnBeasleyMusic.com
The band is my piano. It gives me the opportunity to change the music on the spot by conducting.
Most important, he hires the best band possible. “You have to hire people that have experience; you can’t hire people that are going to be prima donnas on the road,” John Beasley says. “So lesson number one in being an MD: Hire people you know who are totally professional and will have your back.”
John Beasley considered the late Walter Becker an essential mentor and a key figure in his own career. The Grammy-nominated keyboardist, composer and arranger started working with Becker in 1987.
John Beasley’s MONK’estra project is ambitious. It involves a 16-piece big band, plus numerous special guests: tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, singer Dianne Reeves, jazz violinist Regina Carter, trumpeter Dontae Winslow, among others.
The Kind World podcast from WBUR is sure to make your day a little brighter. The podcast tells stories about people who have been affected in a positive way by others. John Beasley orchestrates a 15-piece big band of Los Angeles’s finest jazz musicians. MONK’estra, Vol. 1 is, as the man himself might say, a gas.
There is so much hep stuff happening in these new big band arrangements of tunes by Thelonious Monk that I was transported to another realm, one where the car seems capable of driving itself.
Keyboard Magazine's 2016 Top 10 Music Lists featuring Mack Avenue artists John Beasley and Yellowjackets. Our hope is that the releases below will lead you to artists you haven't heard (or remind you of some you may have missed or forgotten).
John Beasley’s MONK’estra refracts Monk’s music through an orchestral perspective, though, as Beasley has said, “it’s not your grandfather’s big band.” The arrangements are edgy, rhythmically volatile, and stylistically wide-ranging.
Host Bonnie Johnson continues her "Sounds of Summer" series with pianist, composer, and arranger John Beasley about his new release MONK’estra, Volume 1 (Mack Avenue Records). The GRAMMY® and Emmy Award-nominated bandleader will take his 15-piece big band out on a European tour in anticipation of Thelonious Monk's imminent centennial in 2017.
John Beasley’s MONK’estra performed their empathetic, swinging and sometimes hiphop-tinged revisions of Thelonious Monk tunes at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in Lincoln Centre on Thursday night, in front of a window with a view of Trump Tower. And, as Beasley reminded us, Monk himself had grown up literally only a stone’s throw away, on West 63rd Street.
MONK’estra, Vol. 1 was released on Mack Avenue last year, garnering two Grammy nominations and critical acclaim. In the wake of that release, Beasley took the band on tour, before returning to the studio to make MONK’estra, Vol. 2.
“...Beasley’s arrangements in some cases apply funk, electronic and other seemingly anachronistic influences to Monk’s music, as if pushing this repertoire to a stylistic breaking point.”- Chicago Tribune
Grammy-nominated jazz musician John Beasley, who has collaborated with many famous artists such as Miles Davis, Sergio Mendes, Fourplay, Al Jearreau, Chaka Khan, Barbra Streisand and James Brown, was invited as the main guest of the festival and will lead five jazz sessions during the event.
On Monk’estra Vol. 1 (Mack Avenue), L.A. keyboardist-composer-arranger John Beasley brings that same kind of boundless energy and fresh vision to the music of Thelonious Monk.
Los Angeles pianist John Beasley’s 15-piece MONK’estra, focusing on arrangements from two recent eponymous albums. Beasley seeks to infuse Monk’s music with contemporary cadences while evoking the challenges faced by the composer as a black man in a rigged environment.
Jazz pianist, composer, arranger and bandleader John Beasley began his career in the early 1980s, around the time jazz’s Young Men in Suits proclaimed that bebop was the one true way of life. They spoke solemnly about “keeping the flame,” “honoring the tradition” and other such homilies. Record companies, clubs and festivals got out their checkbooks and rewarded these young firebrands, many of whom would have been rated as just OK in the eras they sought to reconstitute.
"Last year, Justo Almario played saxophone with pianist and composer John Beasley and his big band on the album “MONK’estra, Vol. 1,” which is currently nominated for a 2017 Grammy Award in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album category."
From the Afro-Cuban re-imagining of “Epistrophy” to a lively rap version of “Brake’s Sake,” Thelonious Monk’s classic tunes were taken for a wild ride by pianist-bandleader John Beasley’s 15-piece MONK’estra big band at the opening night of the North Sea Jazz Festival.
On this week’s Rhythm Planet show, I catch up with the multi-talented pianist/conductor/arranger John Beasley. Beasley and his big band, MONK’estra, have gained widespread renown and two Grammy nominations for their creative re-imagining of the music of Thelonious Sphere Monk in John Beasley Presents MONK’estra Vol. 1.
“I like the word ‘playfulness,’ because I’ve been saying ‘humorous’ and playful is more accurate,” said Beasley, who was not yet a teenager when he got hooked on Monk.
It is one hundred years this October since Thelonius Monk was born in 1917 and to mark this commemoration of an iconic and highly creative and innovative musician, pianist, arranger and conductor John Beasley has produced the second part of an ongoing homage to the musician.
Monk’estra, Volume Two is here, and it was well worth the wait. Digging deeper into the Monk catalogue, and allowing members of the band and select special guests to stretch out a but have made this is a delight.
"Monk wrote with such originality and put his witty personality into his writing and playing. He was hip to an 11 year old." — John Beasley, Conductor & Arranger - Monk’estra
My best of Jazz List for 2016:
Another year has passed and many would say 2016 was a very tough year for music, especially with the loss of so many influential musicians this past year. The music has always been remarkably resilient and this year is no exception, with many fine new artists having fabulous debut albums
Thelonious Monk was born 100 years ago this October. The tributes and revisitations are about to start rolling in. Leading the pack is “John Beasley Presents MONK’estra, Volume 2...”
"Beasley’s tribute extends the Monk legacy of profound originality, deep-seated passion for the turbulence of the times, and an openness to improvisation in whoever takes the band seat.”- Festival Peak