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Greg Lewis: Organ Monk: American Standard

C. Michael Bailey By

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Dan Bilawsky was mightily impressed with Greg Lewis' two previous Organ Monk offerings, Two in the Black (Self Produced, 2012) and Organ Monk (Self Produced, 2010), where he notes the challenges to non-piano surveys of Thelonious Monk's canon. Greatly in absence is the element of Monk's percussive pianism. But Bilawsky notes that Lewis compensates for this with color and timing, revealing other, hidden aspects of Monk rarely considered.

American Standard is cleverly programmed to include those "Great American Songbook" standards long associated with Monk. Reflecting the majority of Monk's Standards (Columbia, 1989), a compilation recording focusing on Monk's years at Columbia Records, American Standard readily captures Monk's fascination with these songs frequently appearing in his recorded repertoire as passed through the prism of organ jazz tradition. This is not a territory-band grease-fest as were many Jimmy Smith and Dr. Lonnie Smith recordings, though many of the same standards showed up recorded by them. American Standard has the added layer of interpreting an iconoclastic artist (as interpreter) on an instrument other than that associated with the artist.

Monk loved those old tunes from the '20s and '30s. "Lulu's Back In Town," "Dinah," "Just A Gigolo," and "Tea for Two" are established staples that Monk, among many other performers, favored. Lewis transforms these song, retaining and building upon those idiosyncratic elements that made Monk...Monk. On "Liza," Lewis captures the angular nature of Monk heads and fractured time signatures common in Monk's playing. Lewis is able to build a head of steam while retaining Monk's casually swinging spirit. Riley Mullins' bright trumpet and Reggie Woods' muscular tenor saxophone juxtapose with Lewis' piquant organ underpinnings. On "Everything Happens To Me" Lewis and Woods engage in telepathic musical conversation that carries Monk's gospel well into the metaphysical, a rarefied plane of consideration where the visceral becomes tone poem.

Track Listing: Liza, Lulu’s Back In Town; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Dinah; I Should Care; Tea For Two; Everything Happens To Me; Just A Gigolo; Don’t Blame Me; Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea.

Personnel: Greg Lewis: Hammond B3 organ; Ron Jackson: guitar; Riley Mullins: trumpet; Reggie Woods: tenor saxophone; Jeremy Bean Clemons: Drums and Cymbals.

Title: Organ Monk: American Standard | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced


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