31st Annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland
April 20: The Eddie Baccus Organ Summit with Tony Monaco
The evening at Karamu House began with a panel discussion on the contributions of late Cleveland saxophonist/composer Willie Smith. Led by the festival's artistic director Willard Jenkins, the amiable, informative panel featured Joe Lovanowhose Grammy-winning album, 52nd Street Themes (Blue Note, 2000), featured Smith's chartsalong with local musicians Curtis Avant, Ernie Krivda and Evelyn Wright, and journalist Joe Mosbrook, all of whom knew Smith and his music well.
The organ summit that followed presented two distinct B-3 styles in the work of Cleveland legend Eddie Baccus, Sr., who favored a swinging line with an analytical edge, and Tony Monaco (on right), who was all-out, sweaty soul. Filled out by vibraphonist Cecil Rucker, saxophonist Chris Coles, guitarist Bobby Curry and drummer Perry Williams III, the group burned through hard-hitting R&B a la Jimmy Smith. Monaco, whose entire body works and suffers with his instrument, contorting his face into all manner of ecstatic grimaces, worked the crowd as is his wont. He went for high thrills and hit most of the time, shooting the audience down with a finger gun after especially tasty solos. Baccus, conversely, displayed little to no emotion, but touched off involving, if less physically powerful, statements that flowed as easily and naturally from him as did his breath. Rucker's vibes were a nice complement to the heavy organ sound, and his solos often surprised by refusing to complete expected lines, shifting instead and using space to patch together sharply cut collages. Coles never quite seemed to be in-step with the rest of the boys, Curry stayed mostly in a nice, bluesy Grant Green mode and Williams kept things steady (his one extended solo, on the group's third number, while eventually climbing to a climax, pounded on statically for so long, the time continuum seemed to shift). In fact, the set as a whole, dragged on a bit too long and was fattened at its middle by the surprise visit (or at least we were led to believe) by singer Michael Cady, who popped out from the wings to take over the show through two R&B jumpers, Horace Silver's "Filthy McNasty" and "Never Make a Move Too Soon."