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Burnin' Grooves

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Album Review

On the road to becoming a first-class operator of the B3 Hammond organ, Columbus, OH, native Tony Monaco has had to overcome roadblocks. The major one was a polio-like debilitating disease which forced him to change from accordion to organ. Another was the demands of a family business followed by the return of the disease. Undeterred, Monaco has made two albums with his trio, Burnin' Grooves being the second. He's joined on six tracks by his organ-playing peer, Joey DeFrancesco, who sits in on the piano. Monaco's playing exudes an exuberance that combines chitlin' rhythm & blues with gospel, especially on such cuts as "Ashleen." If this were being played before a live audience, they might jump up, exclaiming "Hallelujah" at the end. The Jimmy Smith influence is evident, as it should be given Monaco's fascination with the master's recordings at a young age. Given the strength of the B3, it would be easy to let it dominate other members of the trio. Instead, regular trio guitarist Paul Bollenback stretches out on such tracks as "Bluesette." For most tracks, Joey DeFrancesco's piano is submissive to Monaco's organ. But on "Girl Talk" he lets loose, backing Monaco's vocals (so much for the doctors who diagnosed he would never sing again). The blues-hued material gets set aside for a bouncy rendition of Blue Mitchell's "Fungi Mama," the guitar again playing a major role, this time by Derek DiCenzo. This album is indisputable evidence as to why organ trios have consistently been a popular combination in jazz, especially after the adoption of the flexible, electronic Hammond B3 by Fats Waller in 1939. It's also indisputable evidence that Tony Monaco deserves a spot in the upper echelon of the instrument's leading champions.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Tony Monaco is a leader in a modest revival of the Hammond B3 organ in jazz. As he has been with so many fledgling jazz organists, Jimmy Smith played a significant role in attracting Monaco to jazz and retaining his interest in the music. Monaco was 12 years old when he first heard Smith and, as a 16th birthday present, got a phone call from the organ giant. The culmination of this association came when Smith invited the young performer to join him at Smith's club. Monaco has also been fortunate...
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Burnin' Grooves, Tony Monaco
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