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Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite

Roger Farbey By

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Gregory Lewis has been fairly obsessed with the music of Thelonius Monk from a young age when he first started out performing Monk's repertoire on piano. So the adopted moniker Organ Monk seems appropriate. His move to the Hammond B3 was significant because the style he evinced is remarkably close to that of the late Larry Young rather than say that of, Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff or Jimmy McGriff.

The longest track at nearly twenty minutes, "The Chronicles of Michael Brown" possesses a haunting theme which bookends some exhilarating soloing from Reggie Woods on tenor, Riley Mullins on trumpet and especially Marc Ribot on, at times, excoriating guitar. Lewis himself is no slouch and provides a perfect wash of B3 tonal colour. Two trio numbers follow; the lively "Trayvon" dedicated to Trayvon Martin and the more reflective "Aiyana Jones Song," benefitting from a hauntingly memorable melody with excellently fluid George Benson-like guitar from Ron Jackson. On the lugubrious "Eric Garner," Ribot again evinces some stunning guitar work whilst Nasheet Waits provides vibrant drumming underpinned by Lewis's omnipresent Hammond.

The Fifth and Sixth movements are named after Ausar, the Egyptian god of the afterlife. Ausar is also the nominal donor of the Pan-African religious organization founded in 1973 by Ra Un Nefer Amen known as the Ausar Auset Society. Important in promoting the African origins of Christianity, it also promulgates the virtues of order, temperance, and justice over jealousy, envy and hatred. So Lewis's suite is not just concerned with vilification but also with redemption. "Ausar And The Race Soldiers" is a perfect example of tension and release, the latter giving way both to keen ensemble playing and forceful solos from Woods, Jackson and Lewis. The finale, "Asuar and the Race Soldiers (Reprise)" benefits from two drummers and induces an almost mesmeric state courtesy of a repeated organ motif ceding to an effervescent solo from Lewis before reverting to the obligato vamp and a climactic ending.

This is not the first jazz album to protest against the treatment of some of its black American citizens. Other notable examples include Max Roach's We Insist! Freedom Now Suite, Charles Mingus's Fables of Faubus and Duke Ellington's Black, Brown and Beige. With Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite Lewis has produced a work of outstanding merit and thus proven he now should be regarded as a major force in contemporary jazz, both in terms of compositions and execution.

Track Listing: First Movement: The Chronicles of Michael Brown; Second Movement: Trayvon; Third Movement: Aiyana Jones Song; Fourth Movement: Eric Garner; Fifth Movement: Ausar and the Race Soldiers; Sixth Movement: Asuar and the Race Soldiers (Reprise).

Personnel: Gregory Lewis: Hammond B3 organ; Marc Ribot (1,4), Ron Jackson (2,3,5): guitar; Reggie Woods: tenor saxophone (1,4,5); Riley Mullins: trumpet (1,4,5); Nasheet Waits (1,4,6), Jeremy 'Bean' Clemons (2,3,5,6): drums.

Title: Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced


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