Monday, February 05, 2018

Gregory Lewis - Organ Monk Blue (Self-Produced, 2017)

Hammond B3 organ player Gregory Lewis began playing the instrument while in college at the New School, developing an affinity for the it while backing singers and jamming at the 55 Bar and Minton’s. His love of the music of Thelonious Monk has led to a series of self-produced albums including this one which features Marc Ribot on guitar and Jeremy Bean Clemons on drums. Monk's "Green Chimneys" opens gradually with reedy sounding organ meeting a subtle drum beat and guitar comping. Waves of keyboard thicken the sound adding a slightly overdriven feel, enveloping all that comes before it then dropping out for an interlude of soulful guitar and drums, which add a gently funky feel to the proceedings, reminiscent of Ribot's Young Philadelphians project, after which Lewis leads the group back to the melody and brings the piece to a close. On "Raise Four" Lewis states the melody a light speed, while Ribot lends fractured commentary framing the organ and drums with heat. The group develops an improvisation that mixes swinging jazz that drives forward from the organ and drums streaming ahead while offering a break to offer Ribot to dig deep with a snarling guitar solo, one that gets heavy without ever losing sight of the original goal. They return to the wicked fast melody, driving hard to the conclusion. "Misterioso" has a more respectful reading of the melody, with the group taking it's time delving into Monk's secrets, using a gradually ascending groove from the organ amidst crisp drumming and guitar playing. Ribot's guitar solo is extra soulful, drenched in the blues and hinting at soul jazz master guitarists like Grant Green and Boogoloo Joe Jones. Lewis also makes the most of this funky mid-tempo, carving an impressive solo of his own that makes use of all the organ has to offer, allowing the band to get a full rich sound that is very impressive. The longest track on the album is "Blue Hawk" which fades into volume with the trio establishing a funky groove that they can extrapolate upon. They develop a deep and soulful groove, and are patient enough to let that set their direction as Ribot breaks out for a sharp and pointed guitar solo that would sound at home on a steamy club date, before taking the group into the stratosphere. Lewis steps up next with a very interesting solo, adding choppy clusters of notes and longer organ drones to the fine rhythmic structure provided by Clemons. "Blues Five Spot" has a solid melodic sensibility, with Ribot adding bright clean notes to the improvisation, gradually gaining speed and fluidity, and Lewis responds by taking a solo grounded in the work of the past masters like Jimmy Smith and Brother Jack McDuff, before returning to the original melody. One of Monk's more complex tunes, "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are" ends the album in a fine fashion, with the trio calmly reconstructing the music in their own manner, jamming as a trio, with Ribot adding sly commentary and Clemons laying a firm foundation for the music's success. Organ Monk Blue -

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