Downtown Music Gallery
Review: Hat & Beard "Reflections" (TRP-018)
BY: Bruce Lee Gallanter

Hat & Beard is a Toronto-based duo and this is their second disc with Ken Aldcroft on guitar and Dave Clark on drums. This disc was recorded at The Gas Station in February of 2013 and like their last disc, all of the compositions are by Thelonious Monk. Monk was an extraordinary pianist and composer whose quirky songs take work to get right, especially when done by non-pianists. What is interesting about this duo is that the drummer often plays the song or sets up the structure in his own unique way, fleshing out the arrangements so that the guitar can lay the themes just right. Mr. Aldcroft does a swell job of playing the essential fragmented lines in his own way. Without a bass to nail certain parts down, the duo has the ability play around the structure with a tight yet exuberant zest. On the title track, the duo strip the song down to its bare essentials and then build it up again with just a handful of notes at their disposal. Each of the ten songs provides a different challenge for the duo to work out. It does take some imagination to hear all the parts or fill in the blanks yet they do a consistently fine job playing the essence of what makes these songs so special or unique. If Monk himself heard this duo, he would no doubt do his celebratory dance and smile that sly, all-knowing grin.