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Tony Monaco: Four Brothers

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Tony Monaco: Four Brothers
The current state of recorded music is in flux in ways like it has never been before. Young audiences have fickle tastes and like to pick and choose tracks on streaming platforms. So the idea of an album being a complete and unique entity is a totally foreign idea to many listeners under 30. Nonetheless, the album concept has been integral to jazz listeners from the debut of the long playing record. Imagine the jazz lexicon without Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959), John Coltrane's A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1965), or Duke Ellington's Far East Suite (RCA Victor, 1967) and you get the idea.

Some 50 years into his time spent as a professional musician, jazz organist Tony Monaco remains one of the jazz world's best kept secrets. Part of a thriving and vital jazz scene in Columbus, Ohio, Monaco would probably be better known had he made New York his home base. But for many reasons, he remains in his home environs and has brought his music to the world via his evolving talents in utilizing technology. Be impressed when you realize that Tony has captured this dynamic music by himself in his home studio.

For his twelfth albums as a leader, one might say that he has gone back to the roots and in many ways that is true. This is a true album in the sense that it includes three Monaco originals and a handful or worthy standards programmed sagaciously for good listening. In format and the inclusion of the tune "Brothers-4" it also pays homage to Columbus jazz organ icon Don Patterson. Monaco carries the torch for his generation and hopefully into the future.

The Monaco original "Four Brothers" is heard in two versions and is a classic shuffle brought to life by the drumming of Willie Barthel III. Patterson's "Brothers-4" is akin to Monaco's piece in that it is iconic in nature. Barthel's Nawlins second line groove sparks the flames for a burning performance, with Kevin Turner's rich guitar comping up front and center in the mix.

Monaco's version of "Mas Que Nada" is a different beast than the lilting version Americans heard back in 1966 when Sergio Mendes first covered the tune. Barthel stirs the brew into bacchanalian proportions, complete with saxophonist Edwin Bayard blowing groovy tenor saxophone and Turner delivering stinging single-note riffs of his own.

Renowned guitarist Grant Green will always be associated with the deeply funky "Jan Jan," which can be heard on 1971's Live at Club Mozambique (Blue Note) and 1972's Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note). Monaco and crew change things up with Barthel hitting a solid two and four on the snare. When Bayard comes on with his tenor solo, they shift to swing for variety's sake. Rarely has what is essentially a one-chord jam sounded so hip.

The highlight of the set is an up-tempo romp on "My Shining Hour," which finds everyone in peak form. Bayard sits squarely in the tradition of folks like Gene Ammons and Houston Person, but reaches even beyond those benchmarks with fluent passages in the upper register of his horn. Monaco literally pulls out the stops for his blistering solo followed by an equally fired-up string of trading eights.

It's kind of peculiar how in the classical music realm, reverence for the likes of Bach and Beethoven are still a time honored tradition, while jazz music's mere reliance on pushing forward seems to suggest to some that its tradition is passé. Nothing could be farther from the truth and Monaco's efforts here bode well for the continued vitality of the jazz organ combo.

Track Listing

Four Brothers; You Can Count on Me; Mas Que Nada; Jan Jan; One For Everyone; Lush Life; Brothers-4; My Shining Hour; Four Brothers Too.

Personnel

Tony Monaco: organ, Hammond B3; Edwin Bayard: saxophone, tenor; Kevin Turner: guitar; Willie Barthel III: drums.

Album information

Title: Four Brothers | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Chicken Coup Records

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