“Epistrophy” is a standard composed by pianist Thelonious Monk and drummer Kenny Clarke in 1942. Both were at that time in the house band at Minton’s Playhouse, where the famous jam sessions took place that led to the development of Be-Bop.

Monk was well-known of his unorthodox style to play the piano (which you can see very well in video added in this blog) and his unique composition style. He wrote songs like “Round Midnight”, “Well, You Needn’t”, “Blue Monk” or “Straight, No Chaser”. All these songs are either blues tunes or very bluesy oriented and the melody is using many chromatic elements.

“Epistrophy” is no exception here. The tune is based on a 32-bar ABCB form (or AA’BA’ since the second 8 bars of the melody are similar to first eight bars, just one whole step higher played).

The style of the composition is like an invitation to very experimental and vanguard interpretation of the tune and I would like to introduce here some of these interpretations.

  1. Let’s start with Monk himself: There is a nice live recording with John Coltrane on saxophone and Monk on piano from November 29, 1957. This recording is itself famous since it was accidentally discovered and released in 2005.
  2. The next version I have for you is from the trumpet player Alex Sipiagin recorded in 2009 with a nice line-up (Chris Potter on saxophone and Dave Kikoski on piano). This is a very modern way to play the tune, also rhythmically very interesting.
  3. Another Coltrane-version (this time from Ravi Coltrane also from 2009) shows us how to play this tune in a faster tempo than what we have heard before. The excellent drummer on this recording is E.J. Strickland who was leading the drums workshop in Langnau in 2012.
  4. The next recording I chose is from Elliot Sharp (or E#) from 2006 and shows the experimental and vanguard side of Monks tune.
  5. Finally I have a Chaka Khan medley of famous Be-Bop tunes found on the 1982 album “Chaka Khan” where the following standards are put together into one funky (and Grammy awarded) medley: Hot House – East of Suez (Come On Sailor) – Epistrophy (I Wanna Play) – Yardbird Suite – Con Alma – Giant Steps.

I have again prepared a playlist, so you can listen yourself to the different interpretations.

Finally I found a video showing Monk playing his composition

Bobby Broom Trio


Saturday, January 18 was Bobby Broom’s birthday and I had the chance to see him on this day with Dennis Carroll on bass and Makaya McCraven on drums in Marian’s Jazzroom in Bern. What I saw was quite convincing, the time was flying and the concert finished much too fast.

For a guitar trio this is quite an accomplishment since the three instruments produce only a certain range of sounds and the variety needs to come from the choice of tunes and the playing itself.

The band played a combination of well known songs with faster and slower tempi. They started with the pop song “I Can See Clearly Now” followed by the Charlie Chaplin tune “Smile”. Both very popular songs but Bobby Broom and his trio gave these songs a new coat and they used the structure of the song for their own and rather extraordinary interpretation. Dennis Carroll has been playing with Bobby Broom for many years, and I think this deep understanding between bass and guitar gives this trio the unique character and strength.

The next song the band played was a ballad titled “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”. It’s my wife’s favorite ballad and I have some very nice recordings of this tune, but what I heard from Bobby Broom makes you never go back to any “standard” interpretation of that song.

The set finished with a blues and a traditional song, all again interpreted in the band’s own unique way. We got another ballad as encore and then, as said before, the concert was over far too soon.

If you want to hear more from Bobby Broom use the iTunes links below. My personal favorites are the ballads “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and “Coming Home”. I found it easier to access Bobby Broom’s style through the ballads.

To close this review a quote from Pat Metheney from September 2008: “I have been a huge fan of Bobby since I first heard him with Sonny Rollins and his new one (the “Song and Dance” album) is one of the best guitar trio records ever.”

Nothing to add here from my side.