Tony Monaco: Over And Over

Ohio-born organist leads guitar and drums in an idiomatic and effective set of blues, bop, bossa and soul-jazz

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Considering the future of the Hammond brand, it is a bad omen that few organists are genuinely innovative – John Medeski and Dutchman Carlo de Wijs come to mind. But it is evident that the demand for vintage Hammond sounds and styles is undiminished and catered to by both hip, funky newcomers and weathered pros such as Mike LeDonne, Bill Heid, Pat Bianchi, Kyle Koehler and Brian Charette. And one can go to bed with the comforting knowledge that Tony Monaco will also keep the flame of organ jazz burning.

Columbus, Ohio-born Monaco took up the organ under the wings of the godfather of modern organ jazz, Jimmy Smith. After he quit working in the family business there followed a steady flow of product, one of which – Strollin’ – was reviewed in JJ in 2021.

While Strollin’, which featured harmonica, represented a cautious (and rewarding) straying from the path, Over And Over brings us back to the classic, unbeatable format of organ, guitar and drums. Relying on trusty colleagues Zakk Jones on guitar and Reggie Jackson on drums, Monaco serves up a solid dish of bopping grooves and smooth soul-jazz.

The latter seems to be a Monaco special, no doubt because he is a child of the early 1970s, which brimmed with Philly soul, Quincy Jones-produced funk-pop and CTI soul-jazz. Both Da Daddy and Over And Over (I Want You) bear the mark of this period. The title track is especially enticing. Keeping one engaged – hips swaying – for a full nine minutes, it is a nostalgic vision of disco balls and roller skate girls. Excellence lies in the details, notably Jones’s cliché-free licks and phrases and Monaco’s torrential downward flight of notes in the middle section of his fiery solo.

Blues and bossa-based tunes complete the proceedings. Monaco’s trio is a safe bet if you want to hear a genuine update of legends like Don Patterson or Richard “Groove” Holmes.

Discography
Da Daddy; One For Pat (Martino); My Lil’ Rosie Girl; Over And Over (I Want You); Ready Set Go; Sailboat; Uprooted (48.23)
Monaco (org); Zakk Jones (g); Reggie Jackson (d). Place and date unknown.
Chicken Coup Records 7030