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Tony Monaco: Furry Slippers

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Through nine releases, primarily from his home studio in Columbus, Ohio, Tony Monaco has proved that he's a solid link in the hip Hammond B-3 organ chain that reaches from contemporaries such as Wil Blades and Joey DeFrancesco all the way back to Jimmy Smith and other founders of the Hammond groove. At a recent Java Jazz Festival (in Indonesia), Monaco met drummer Greg Fundis and guitarist Fareed Haque, and the three hit it off so well that they were soon touring the midwest US as an organ trio, and recorded Furry Slippers during breaks on this tour.

It is very easy to wrap yourself up in these thoroughly comfortable Furry Slippers. Faque's guitar in the opening, title track heats up a groove as potent as any track recorded by Melvin Sparks, Grant Greenor any other guitarist from the soul-jazz heydays of Prestige or Blue Note Records. Monaco's original "Boogie Blue" kicks out even hotter and tastier jam: Haque's rhythm hook stirs the funk up from the bottom and spreads it 'round the top while Monaco's turn brings to mind a picture of Sun Ra reclining in a mellow mood behind his master keyboard console. "We're trying to keep moving the tradition forward but yet keeping up with the times," Monaco explains. "So it has more of a modern-day funk rather than just swing." "Chillin'" further extends this mellow, languid mood.

"Unresolved" emphatically lands in the jazz corner: Here Haque sounds quite like Pat Martino, who cut a considerable number of hefty soul-jazz sides with Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff, exploring from multiple angles the melody that Monaco spreads like a blanket before him. So does the trio's update of "I'll Drink to That," a classic from the Jimmy Smith catalog that sounds like three friends sitting around a neighborhood bar, enjoying each others' company and the refreshments they share—an invigorating update of a sparkling, fun groove.

Monaco arranges the jazz classic "'Round Midnight" as a showcase for Haque, whose switch to acoustic guitar sounds like soothing balm and introduces flamenco ruffles and other Spanish/Latin sounding flourishes. Haque returns the favor by remaining on acoustic to usher in Monaco's earnest vocal take on "But Beautiful," which mines every ounce of starlight and wonder from this classic to close this set.

Track Listing: Furry Slippers; Boogie Blue; Chillin'; Unresolved; Magenta Moon; Speak Low; 'Round Midnight; I'll Drink to That; But Beautiful.

Personnel: Tony Monaco: organ, vocals; Fareed Haque: electric guitar, classical guitar; Greg Fundis: drums; Asako Itoh: piano.

Title: Furry Slippers | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Chicken Coup Records

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