Tony Monaco: Strollin’

Organ, harmonica, guitar and drums serve up a menu of light-hearted bop and ballad


Fashions come and fashions go. At least the recipe of standards, ballads and blues provides the 21st century Schizoid Jazz Fan with a semblance of sanity. Provided, of course, that the relevant performers live up to their reputations.

As far as reputation goes, Tony Monaco is an acclaimed representative of modern jazz organ since the 1970s. Hendrik Meurkens is the main man of contemporary jazz harmonica and successfully specialises in samba and bossa nova. Strollin’ couples them with guitarist Mark Lucas and drummer (and the record’s producer) Reid Hoyston.

They serve a menu of light-hearted bop. Balanced solos mark tunes such as Horace Silver’s Strollin’, the Latin-tinged Monaco tune Happy Sergio and Meurkens’ signature piece Slidin’. And while the similarity of dishes make Strollin’ a long journey, it features a couple of exceptional performances by Meurkens. Meurkens has achieved sensational dexterity on the harmonica. He skims around the potholes of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird Suite like a cabbie on grape sugar, while his incredibly long wails, albeit vibratoless, remind of his instrument’s blues roots.

The progression of Mark Lucas’s colourful A Room Above is ingenious and underlined by Hoyston’s sensitive tickling of cross rhythms on the cymbals. It’s on par with the ballad section of Strollin’. The inspired You Don’t Know What Love Is suggests that all four veterans of life and music have learned the meaning of the blues. Monaco’s agile single lines and dynamic storytelling reflect the influence of Hammond B3 master of lore, Don Patterson, who like Monaco was a native of Columbus, Ohio. The tempo of Thad Jones’ A Child Is Born is a tad slower than usual and Meurkens makes the most of its languid mood. Mellifluous phrases tenderly lull the newborn baby to sleep. The little human being may have returned to dreamland, but the maternity visitors stay wide awake, listening in awe.

Very touching and the prime reason to put this combi of organ and harmonica in your shopping cart.

Yardbird Suite; A Room Above; Strollin’; You Don’t Know What Love Is; Mundell’s Mood; Happy Sergio; A Child Is Born; Aglio E Olio; Slidin’; Roz Da Cat; Mean Dog Blues (56.27)
Monaco (org); Hendrik Meurkens (harm); Mark Lucas (g); Reid Hoyston (d). Pittsburgh, 3 & 4 November 2018.
Reid Hoyston Productions