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Winning Ottawa Sens couldn't beat Thelonious Monk

Adrean Farrugia brought his own voice and careful thought to interpreting Thelonious Monk's music. ©Brett Delmage, 2015

Adrean Farrugia, Michel Delage, Alex Bilodeau
Tribute to Thelonious Monk
Brookstreet Hotel, Options Jazz Lounge
Friday, April 24, 2015

It was a Thelonious Monk celebration at Brookstreet's Options Jazz Lounge on Friday night. Pianist Adrean Farrugia from Hamilton hadn't played before with local bassist Alex Bilodeau or drummer Michel Delage, but with considerable careful listening on everyone's part, they produced three fast-moving sets showing off the wide variety and beauty in Monk's music – and its angularity and unexpectedness, too.

Beautiful ballads like “Pannonica” and “Eronel”, and upbeat numbers like “Bemsha Swing” and “In Walked Bud” held the interest of many listeners in the room – and, as promised, there were some lesser-known numbers as well. The trio aptly closed the evening with “'Round Midnight”, given a quiet and reflective treatment. Farrugia played a long solo intro before moving to the song's melody, and ended the piece with solo piano again, in a lovely romantic ending.

Ottawa is a hockey-mad town, and that evening was the fifth, win-or-die game in NHL playoffs for the Ottawa Senators against the Montreal Canadiens. So the second set was interrupted momentarily several times with loud cheering when the muted TV screen showed the Senators had scored a goal – but the musicians never missed a beat.

The trio was back for a second night Saturday, augmented by tenor saxophonist Richard Page, who couldn't be there Friday because of a double-booking. This is the second in a monthly series of jazz tributes Delage is organizing at Brookstreet; the third at the end of May will feature Toronto pianist Nancy Walker and bassist Kieran Overs and the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

    – Alayne McGregor

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All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2015