Imagine Thelonious Monk playing not piano but organ. Not easy to visualize, but that is the concept Gregory Lewis wishes to present on Organ Monk Going Home, the "home" in this instance exemplifying not a physical space where one goes to rest and refresh the soul but a metaphorical creation of the mind whose images are wide and dimensions unlimited.
Lewis has spent much of his career reshaping Monk's unorthodox pianistic ideas for the organ, a pursuit that pays dividends more often than not. While Monk's approach may be elusive, his spirit is ever-present as Gregory performs eight of Monk's singular compositions and one of his own, leading a trio whose other members are guitarist Kevin McNeal and drummer Nasheet Waits.
While Lewis does his best Monk impression on organ, McNeal provides a refreshing counterpoint, as his solos are linear and straight from the standard hard-bop playbook. For his part, Waits does whatever is necessary to keep the trio moving forward, using every device in his kit in service to the enterprise. The lone break from the Monk appraisal comes on the last number, Lewis' spectral "Jaclyn's Eyes," which sounds quite unlike anything that has gone before it. Even so, the belief here is that Monk would have endorsed it.
Among the eight themes by Monk, at least two"Evidence" and "Brilliant Corners"are fairly well-known. The others are the fast-moving opener, "Who Knows," the playful "San Francisco Holiday," whimsical "Gallop's Gallop," bouncy "Two Timer" and plain-spoken "Brake's Sake," each one gratifying in its own way. Try as he may, Lewis cannot quite mirror Thelonious Monk, but his heart and soul are in the right place, and Organ Monk Going Home earns respectable marks for concept and performance.
Who Knows; Evidence; San Francisco Holiday; Brilliant Corners; Gallop’s Gallop; Two Timer;
Brake’s Sake; Jaclyn’s Eyes.
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