Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Greg Lewis - Organ Monk (CDBaby, 2010)

Thelonious Monk’s music is so iconic and malleable that it lends itself to almost any instrument imaginable. Organist Greg Lewis leads a wonderfully swinging trio on a Monk themed program accompanied by Cindy Blackman on drums and Ron Jackson on guitar. I have always found a particular joyousness in Monk’s music as if it was written to dance to. This trio keeps the same vision, keeping the songs short, to the point and focused on those indelible melodies. Their swinging, uptempo performances carry the most weight, especially “Work,” which is a tremendous burning performance with the full band pulling together and making a fast and powerful statement. “We See” has a bouncy, buoyant swing that carries the music through the air. Jackson gets a nice feature on “Think of One” bookended by an interesting arrangement that has a choppy, stuttering beginning and end. Lewis takes “Monk’s Mood” as an atmospheric solo ballad, getting an almost churchy or gospel feeling from the instrument. The group moves to a strong finish with “Introspection,” which despite its title features swinging drums and probing organ and guitar. Blackman is also the focus of the album closing “Kohl's Here” which slowly builds power, culminating in an expressive drum solo. This was a consistently charming evocation of Thelonious Monk’s music by a finely integrated trio. The musicians treat the music with respect, but aren’t afraid to put their own unique stamp on it. Organ Monk - amazon.com

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