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Tony Monaco & Friends: Back At The Chicken Shack


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Accepting the torch of seminal B3 organist Jimmy Smith is one thing—holding it is another. But in the same way that Johannes Brahms carried on the legacy of Beethoven, so Tony Monaco serves Jimmy Smith. A longtime Summit Records label item, Monaco here steps out with his own imprint, Chicken Coup Records, releasing three discs and playing on two of them.

Monaco has already made a significant mark with albums including Let's Bop, Burnin' Grooves, Master Chops T, Intimately Live At The 5:01, A New Generation, and Fiery Blues. Already a considerable presence in the jazz community as a player and bandleder, Monaco's role broadens to producer, accompanist and label director with Chicken Coup.

Tony Monaco
East To West
Chicken Coup Records

On East To West, Tony Monaco opts for the services of guitarist Bruce Forman and drummer Adam Nussbaum—with saxophonist Byron Rooker added for good measure—rather than his longstanding rhythm section of Robert Kraut and Louis Tsamous. The result is a more wholly homogenous presentation. The overall groove of the recording is easy and urbane: smart Latin rhythms, well-rounded (and behaved) guitar solos and Monaco's signature warm-wind attack. The album is sandblasted Monaco, with all of the rough edges smoothed to a brushed nickel finish. Depending on one's taste, this can be good or bad.

For those listeners who prefer their fat as pate, Monaco's "I'll Remember Jimmy, Joe Henderson's "Recordame and Benny Goodman's "Don't Be That Way fit the bill. These are sleek performances highlighting the strengths of the trio. Rooker's tenor provides a languid Ben Webster patina, with just enough blue notes to make the ballads rich. This richness even extends to Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee, where Monaco takes a staid approach. Rooker sports an alto in deference to Bird, providing a full-bodied solo.

Those listeners looking for the incendiary Monaco, fueled by fried chicken, need to focus on the jump blues. "Rudy And The Fox has Monaco chopping his way through the cotton curtain with his Hammond axe. Rooker isn't an archetypal Texas tenor (an approach which would have been perfect for this piece), but he provides a credible historic link to first generation organ-tenor trio blues.

Monaco has a Wayne Shorter moment on "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise," where he and Forman recalibrate the melody just enough to be daring and inventive without losing contact with the original. Forman's solo here is the most spirited on the recording, just as Monaco's is the most introspective and abstract. East To West is a positive evolution for Tony Monaco. Let's hope for many more.

LDB3 and Friends
Blue Bop
Chicken Coup Records

Organ newcomer Linda Dauwalder-Dachtyl makes her debut on Chicken Coup with Blue Bop, which has Monaco at the producing helm. Dachtyl has a facile gift when it comes to digging deep in a genre and revealing something new, and the opening two compositions, "Silver Spoon and "Goin' Home, illustrate this perfectly.

Dachtyl infuses her performance with plenty of testosterone muscle without the hard corners. She swings hard. Her drive is buoyed and propelled by drummers Jim Rupp and Cary Dachtyl, who keep the festivities moving, fast or slow.

What Monaco's East To West lacked in the blues, Dachtyl more than makes up for on Blue Bop. Fully half of the disc's 10 pieces are upbeat blues, which showcase both Dachtyl's organic palette and her two dry tenor saxophonists, Gene Walker and Bob Frascotti. Outside of the blues, "All The Things You Are and Monk's "Well, You Needn't stand out. On the former, Dactyl chooses a precise, brisk tempo which gives the piece a relentless swing. Frascotti plays with a virile fervor, dueling with Cary Dachtyl Coltrane-style for a chorus. Guitarist Giles Ponticello rips a multi-chorus solo before allowing the leader time to stretch out. Dachtyl opts for the Gillespie-Parker introduction to "All The Things You Are, propelled by Walker's Dexter Gordon tone and attack.

Blue Bop is a fun organ-tenor-guitar outing by newcomer Dachtyl.

Willie Pooch featuring Tony Monaco
Chicken Coup Records

Singer Willie Pooch is a name deserving a genesis in the fiction of William Faulkner. Pooch (born William Johnson) is a native of Tupelo, Mississippi where he was a contemporary of Elvis Presley. He has performed with a variety of blues artists from Elmore James to Luther Allison. Pooch appeared on Monaco's Fiery Blues where he sung "Everyday I Have the Blues, a performance reprised on Funk-N-Blues.

What grease was missing on East To West and Blue Bop is amply compensated for on Funk-N-Blues. Monaco has his regular guys on hand and they put the pots on, gas on high. As for Pooch, he is more Jimmy Rushing than Joe Williams. He has an expressive tenor voice that is somewhere between the chitlin' circuit and the concert stage, tending toward the humid confines of a Pentecostal tent meeting. There is plenty of church in Pooch's vocals, as evidenced on "Cross My Heart Blues, "Natural Ball and "Georgia On My Mind. Monaco is all over the organic map with his carefully shaded fills and solos. Guitarist Rick Collura conjures blue notes and chords from thin air, never overdoing it.

Funk-N-Blues finds Monaco fitting into an accompanist role with ease, introducing the old "new talent of Willie Pooch. The album is predictable, as it can only be, but it is apparent that Pooch has many more tricks up his sleeve. Monaco will surely look for them.

Tracks and Personnel

East To West

Track listing: I'll Remember Jimmy; O Barquino; Rudy And The Fox; Recordame; Don't Be That Way; Donna Lee; Roz Da' Cat; Softly As In A Morning Sunrise; Like Someone In Love; Indiana.

Personnel: Tony Monaco: organ; Bruce Forman: guitar; Adam Nussbaum: drums; Byron Rooker: tenor saxophone (3,5), alto saxophone (6).

Blue Bop

Silver Spoon; Goin' Home Bridge To Shangri-La; Sudden Samba; Well You Needn't; Remember; All The Things You Are; Walkin' With Mr. Lee; All About My Girl; Tenderly.

Personnel: Linda Dachtyl: organ; Tom Carroll, Sean Carney, Giles Ponticello: guitar; Gene Walker, Bob Frascotti: tenor saxophone; Jim Rupp, Cary Dachtyl: drums.


Tracks: Why I Sing The Blues; House Arrest Blues; Cross My Heart Blues; In My Lonely Room; Same Old Blues; The Thrill Is Gone; Natural Ball; Buckeye Steel Mill Blues; Willie Rap; Georgia On My Mind; Everyday I Have The Blues.

Personnel: Willie Pooch: vocals; Tony Monaco: organ; Rick Collura: guitar; Louis Tsamous: drums.

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