FAME Review: Greg Lewis - Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black
Greg Lewis - Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black

Organ Monk: Uwo in the Black

Greg Lewis

Available from Greg Lewis's music page.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Right from the very first note of Greg Lewis' cool, funky, groovin', intense, deep, and sideways Hammond C3 and musical interpretations, Organ Monk is a solidly hip trad+ jazz tribute to one of the genre's true genuises, Thelonius Monk, whose oeuvre—like Mingus', Roland Kirk's, and others'—is still way the fuck ahead of it's time. I mean, this CD gets down into the jazz backbrain and just goes to town. Not satisfied to recite the esteemed oft-bespectacled piano player's mad cuts, Lewis exhumes the harmonic backbone of a number of the comp-god's tracks, plus a few of Lewis' own, refleshing everything about a body of work that was and is still absolutely hypnotic. Nor can one in any way find the organist lacking. His In the Black—My Nephew is a thunderingly muscular piece that starts out quietly and then just keeps growing in voice and authority, building a mountain before laying back again into its fundament, the listener exhausted and exhilarated. Somewhere in the Great Beyond, Monk's grinning from ear to ear, and, sweet Christ, that sax of Reginald R. Woods…YOW!

Not a cut, not a bar, not a note is emitted but that it arises from superb discretion on all parts. Drummer Nasheet Waits knows his shit when it comes to laying down impeccable and even futuristic ground layers, ceaselessly inventive. Ronald Jackson employs his guitar, surprisingly, often as Waits' own rhythm section, the two well into the demanding compositions like Lewis and Woods…but, man, that Woods! Another Dewey Redman, for my money. As with Jarrett, Lewis couldn't have chosen a better flanking voice. I was very surprised, then, when Greg turned in a Brian Augerish Skippy…that works perfectly. Whoda thunkit? Because, yeah, you know Auger must've been laying ear to Monk as well as McDuff, McGriff, and the others.

If I'm not mistaken, that's a Leslie Lewis is using in Ugly Beauty, and it thickens up the atmospherics measurably while harking back to olden days (in a completely different mode, Ken Hensley knew the value of that marvelous speaker system as well), putting a bit of the cathedral in the spacey swirls and washes. Lotsa hard bop in Uwo, something I really needed after all the fine swing releases I've been reviewing lately. Needed the edge back, man, had to have the craziness crowding in with the melodic and coherent. As said, from beginning to end, this is a fantastically solid CD, but it's also the second in a series, the first titled just Organ Monk, and, trust me, before you're done listening to even half of Uwo, you'll be racing to the computer to order that debut as well. Try to be patient when it takes a few days to arrive. Play this one again until then. More than once.

Track List:

  • Little Rootie Tootie
  • In The Black - My Nephew (Greg Lewis)
  • Humph
  • Skippy
  • Ugly Beauty
  • Zion's Walk (Greg Lewis)
  • GCP (Greg Lewis)
  • Stuffy Turkey
  • Bright Mississippi
  • Thelonious
  • Why Not (Greg Lewis)
  • Crepuscule With Nellie
  • Teo
  • 52nd Street Theme
All songs written by Thelonius Monk except as noted.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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