I had the pleasure of meeting him several years ago in Paris, France. We were both working with our trios at the Sunside/Sunset Jazz Club, located in the Les Halles section of Paris. I was working the upstairs room (the Sunside) with bassist Daryl Hall and drummer Donald Kontomanou, while Joe was performing in the downstairs room (the Sunset) with his group Trio X with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. The set times for the different rooms did not overlap, so we were not able to hear each other’s set. But I was honored to be sharing the same sonic space with him that evening.
I like the elastic approach with which Joe plays the melody. His rendition reminds me a little of Lacy in that he, too, often veered off into a freer harmonic-scape after the main theme, recapping with the melody at the very end. This approach is very effective, because the music always sounds fresh. If one played over the tune's chord changes during the solos it would start to sound predictable. Besides, Monk's melodies are so well-crafted and witty they often inspire lots of ideas on their own.