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Tony Monaco: A New Generation Paesanos on the New B3

Ken Hohman By

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That the Hammond B-3 gene is dominant in males of the Italian persuasion? Is there a secret spice in spaghetti sauce that makes a man's fingers burn the 88s? One listen to Paesanos On The New B3 and you would be apt to think so. A sizzling showdown between the dueling organs of B3 grand master Joey DeFrancesco and up-and- coming master Tony Monaco, Paesanos shows that the unique sound of the Hammond B-3 can still ignite the kind of sparks it did during its heyday in the '60s.

Though cheerfully wrapped in a checkerboard tablecloth motif and sporting song titles like "Pasta Faggioli," this recording is actually a solid tribute to the classic organ battles between Jimmy McGriff and Richard "Groove" Holmes. The "new" generation refers to a new model of Hammond-Suzuki organ that Monaco and DeFrancesco employ and with their respective trios in support the two organists serve up nine tracks ranging from greasy blues to sanctified gospel to Neapolitan pop.

The opening track, "Pasta Faggioli," is an irresistible butt-shaker with a stop-time soul groove and straight-ahead blues phrasing by both Monaco and DeFrancesco. On this track and many others, it's difficult to tell who is playing but, suffice to say, the two paesanos are brilliant. The trios provide excellent support with crisp, melodic lines from guitarists Robert Kraut and Craig Ebner and fatback drums from Louis Tsamous and Byron Landham.

Considering the sameness of many B3 recordings over the years, it is to the credit of Monaco and DeFrancesco that they change things up with each track. On "Homily" and "Katerina's Prayer," they trade off sweet gospel choruses, heightening the emotional resonance with the slightest change in pitch. Their high-speed unison playing on "Flat Tire" is a real thrill and it is matched by fleet-fingered guitar solos of Kraut and/or Ebner. The cheesy, squelched tones of the Hammond B3 on the romantic "Mona Lisa" are perfect for a whirl around the skating rink; and the call-and-response of "Mozzarella" features some interesting elongated tones, the kind of which can only come from the B3. And for extra spice, the breakneck "Aglio e Olio" features some fine bop phrasing by Joey on muted trumpet as he trades eights with the trios.

Shifting the meatball schmaltz into high gear, Tony and Joey perform some fun melodic choruses and blocked chord attacks on Louis Prima's jaunty "Oh Marie" and Monaco plays wonderful accordion on "Waltz Of The Angels." But while these songs are enjoyable, one wishes they were prelude a more exciting finish than the disposable live interview that closes the disc.

Nevertheless, Paesanos is terrific fun and certainly a must-listen for fans of the Hammond B3 sound. Molto bene!

Track Listing: Pasta Faggioli; Homily; Katerina

Personnel: Tony Monaco

Title: A New Generation Paesanos on the New B3 | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Summit Records

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