The name alone can strike fear into the heart of the most seasoned straight ahead players. To cover a Monk tune one must be able to shift their harmonic progressions, dynamics and improvisational thought literally on the fly. The end result of a Monk cover can be either an artistic triumph or a crash and burn of epic proportions as rarely if ever is there any middle ground.
The sophmore outing by Greg Lewis is not slated to street till Labor day ( 09/01/12 ) but in the day of the digital download and with the myriad of purchase possibilities combined with the sheer delight in this recording - I deceided to give you a well deserved heads up! This is the second volume in what has been promised as a Monk trilogy and is an organic expansion without losing any of the other passion of Volume One. The addition of tenor saxophonist Reginald Woods is a stroke of genius adding a laser beam of lyrical direction that may have been the only missing link from the first release. Lewis holds court on the Hammond C3 which for the uninitiated is essentially identical to the more prominently mentioned B3. First call guitarist Ron Jackson is back along with steady rolling Nasheet Waits on drums and together this most inspiring of 4tets continues their exploration of Monk along with four original compositions from Lewis.
High points of this release are literally too numerous to mention but there are two for the Monk junkie that have to be singled out. Two rare Monk pieces "Humph" and "Skippy" are both done with the old school finesse necessary to really sell that classic Monk feel without going over the self indulgent edge other artists may easily find themselves. Swinging uptemp bop mixed with just the right amount of flavor and texture to take you straight back to the original 1947 and 1952 recordings of both. Jackson and his guitar work together as one, harmonic lyrical flow with a sense of urgency yet organic and natural in their presentation. Waits plays with a controlled sonic fury and may be one of the more under rated drummers working today. Woods plays tenor in the musical sweet spot somewhere between say a Hank Mobley and a Johnny Griffin. Probably the most intriguing aspect of this collection would be the tune "52nd Street Theme" where Jackson steps in for Woods on a tune Monk had written but never recorded. A rare glimpse inside the musical genius and at the same time a sadly troubled soul.
Tribute recording to, for, and about Thelonious Monk are a dime a dozen with most worth as much. Lewis has been able to take the Monk discography to a place it has never been while breathing new life into timeless classics such as "Crepuscule With Nellie."
Monk can strike fear into the hearts of critics as well as just the mention of his name can make most of us tense up in the same fashion as the words "tax time." Musical intimidation. Lewis and this most formidable of finely tuned 4tets reinvent Monk and breath a new harmonic breath into one of the giants of music across any genre. Lewis does a sonic exploratory on organ rarely heard for what may well be one of the finest Monk cover/tribute recordings to date.
5 Huge Stars!
Tracks: Little Rootie Tootie; In The Black; Humph; Skippy; Ugly Beauty; Zion's Walk; GCP; Stuffy Turkey; Bright Mississippi; Thelonious; Why Not; Crepuscule With Nellie; Teo; 52nd Street Theme.
Personnel: Nasheet Waits: drums & cymbals; Ronald Jackson: guitar; Reginald Woods: tenor saxophone; Greg "Organ Monk" Lewis: hammond c3