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Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite

Jerome Wilson By

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Gregory Lewis aka Organ Monk, is an organ player with a uniquely grandiose and dramatic style that owes as much to a prog rock icon like Keith Emerson as to a Jimmy Smith. That was clear enough on his previous recording, American Standard where he played a selection of familiar pop standards. It's even more evident on this CD.

As the track titles indicate, The Breathe Suite is a unified work deals with the last few years of reported instances of unarmed African-Americans being killed in confrontations with law enforcement, each movement naming one particular victim. The music reflects anger, shock and horror among other responses. It is split between tracks in a conventional organ trio format and others with a larger group including horns, which are the more visceral ones. On "Chronicles Of Michael Brown," Lewis and guitarist Marc Ribot set up an eerie, whining prelude to the anguished screams of the horn players. In their individual solos, Reggie Woods cries a drawling, soulful lament and Riley Mullins attacks with fast-tempoed fire, both over backdrops of simmering organ and chopping guitar. Ribot follows them with his own melancholy, elastic blues solo.

"Eric Garner" is more in a full lament mode with Lewis maintaining a sinister drone, Ribot fading in and out with stretched, icy riffs, the horns playing slow unison figures and Nasheet Waits drumming with furious controlled power. Lewis' jittery organ stomping is spotlighted on the first version of "Ausar And The Race Soldiers" dueling with drummer Jeremy Clemons before Woods and Mullins spiral out with stormy, soul-jazz riffs.

The organ trio pieces are more conventional on the surface but maintain the sinister undertone of the entire work. On "Trayvon" Lewis, Clemons and Ron Jackson play in a choppy, woozy unison before the organ and guitar take off into fast boppish solos with a sizzling carpet of cymbals underneath and "Aiyana's Jones Song" goes from wary abstraction to a carefree strut with Jackson doing dizzying single note picking as Clemons keeps a brisk pace. The reprise of "Ausan" is simply Lewis spinning into a spiraling frenzy as both Waits and Clemons boil underneath him.

This music is an eloquent protest statement composed and played with fire and urgency. This is how Charles Mingus's or Archie Shepp's political music might have sounded if they had a Hammond organ at their disposal. Gregory Lewis has created a heavy work that hopefully gets a lot of people's attention.

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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