Joey DeFrancesco / Tony Monaco Trio: Singin' and Swingin' / Burning Grooves (2001)
The Hammond B-3 Organ— New and Newer.
The temptation not to couple these two discs in a single review perished when reviewing the musician's credits. Both of these Hammond B-3 releases have one big thing in common: Joey DeFrancesco and his regular rhythm. But, Mr. DeFrancesco does not lead both of these releases. Complicated? No, not really.
DeFrancesco, who burst onto the scene as a precocious teen in 1988, recorded several notable records with Columbia, High Note and Big Mo'. Eventually, he moved to Concord Jazz, where he has previously released the popular concept album GoodFellas (Concord Jazz 4845, 1999) and a disc with Jimmy Smith, Incredible (Concord Jazz 4890, 2000). Singin' and Swingin' is his fourth release for the label and it adds yet another turn in the saga of this prodigy. Singin' and Swingin' shows off is considerable vocal skills. His voice is smooth without any tonic idiosyncrasies. Perhaps it is not as memorable or powerful as Sinatra, an obvious influence, but DeFrancesco sings with a straightforward, relaxed confidence that never descends into schmaltz.
Eight of the 13 pieces are backed by a big band, a mix that when coupled with DeFrancesco's B-3 provides a potent highball. "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" and "Mack the Knife" are great fun on the vocal-big band side as is "One Mint Julep is on the instrumental big band side. DeFrancesco kicks it out with his trio of guitarist Paul Bollenbeck and drummer Byron Landham on a mellow "In the Wee Small Hours" and a blues-sodden "Oh Danny Boy". He is still the young phenom, even as a seasoned professional.
Tony Monaco is a bit of another story. Monaco, a Columbus, Ohio native, grew up on Jimmy Smith and with a neurodegenerative disease that forced him to relearn is musical craft not once, but twice. Once thought to never play or sing again, Burnin' Grooves is Monaco's in-your-face F*** YOU to disease and anything else in his way. The recording is split between Monaco's regular trio and Joey DeFrancesco and his. DeFrancesco helped produce the disc and provided piano backing, most notably on "Girl Talk," the only vocal of the recording, delivered by Monaco in an earnest and clear manner. The rest of the disc is what you would hope for— Jump Blues. "Blues for T" is a sauntering song that soars in the solos, while "Backyard Shack," "Fungi Mama," and "Jumpin' the Blues" burn like a bonfire. Theilmann's "Bluesette" is beautifully performed.
Monaco plays with an incendiary style, full of bluesy slurs and rapid-fire solos. He is ably supported on the disc, but make no mistake— this is Tony Monaco's project and he has arrived.
Singin' and Swingin':You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To; Mr. Dennis Houlihan; They Say It's Wonderful; Did You Hear Him Holler; Mack The Knife; One Mint Julep; In The Wee Small Hours; I Thought About You; The Sidewalk Is Wild' Let Me Love You Tonight; Kansas City; Danny Boy; I'm Getting Sentimental Over You. (Total Time: 59:44)
Burnin' Grooves:Blues For T; Backward Shack; Girltalk; Fungi Mama; Jumpin' The Blues; Ashleen; Bluesette; Road Song; So Long For Now. (Total Time: 60:44)
Singin' and Swingin':Joey DeFrancesco: Hammond B-3 Organ, Trumpet, Vocals; Paul Bollenbeck: Guitar; Byron Landham: Drums; big band.
Burnin' Grooves:Tony Monaco: Hammond B-3 Organ, Vocals; Joey DeFrancesco: Piano; Paul Bollenbeck, Derek DiCenzo: Guitars; Byron Landham, Louis Tsamous: Drums.
Record Label: Concord Music Group