It's kind of funny when you think about it: my father's generation was the one that grew up during The Era Of Rampaging Genius (Mingus, Miles, Monk, Kirk, etc.) but, to my mind, didn't really dig it nearly as deeply, at least not on the White West side of town—the Black East was TOTALLY down with it, thank God, or it mightn't have survived so well—as their offspring, the Boomers, did, me and my buddies. And we were so caught up with Hendrix, Clapton, Iommi, Fripp, Townshend, and the rockers that it took us a while to come around to the jazzers. In fact, I'd say that, after that, we're now more stoked out then ever we were before…or am I just being confessional? 'Cause I'm telling you that not a day goes by that I don't see just how much beyond hip that period was.
Well, the latest generations are catching onto all of that much more swiftly than The "Greatest" or we Boom babies, and Greg Lewis is one solid example. The guy started in hip-hop, digs the hell out of pop, rock, and classical, and used to be a human beat box while studying piano. Heh!, sounds a lot like some of us past and present hippies, but, with Organ Monk: American Standard, the B-3 fanatic jumps into the deep end of the pool. Take Lulu's Back in Town as just one instance. That staccato ositinato that drummer Jeremy Bean Clemons exhibits so clearly in a passage, and then in mutations elsewhere in the cut, just slays me, not to mention bringing back echoes of Ronald Shannon Jackson's muscularity and invention. The rest of the band gambols and frolics above him, and Lewis takes on an anthemic be-bop that emphasizes the odd but groovin' time signature.
Nice Work if You can Get It continues the spirit of Lulu but more in a chopped up smooth vibe, satiny in the main melodics but many times wrenched out of self-complementarity to provide its own surreal contrast, a damned clever take. The disc has already nabbed a 2013 Jazz Awards nomination, and just the slightest listen reveals why: it's completely faithful to the days when Thelonius Monk walked the Earth and just as audacious in its insistence on pulling everything forward, injecting no end of alarmingly righteous peculiarities. But I'm tellin' ya: keep an eye and an ear on Jeff Clemons. That guy is a monster skinspounder and will soon be, I have no doubt whatsoever, a benchmark reference for critics and musicians alike. He doesn't just keep time or add to the conversation or jump up the rhythm section, this stickswielder makes 100% percussive music, and that's rarer than hen's teeth and unicorn horns.
Oh, and the release comes in a quadra-fold with three pages of great insights from crit Howard Mandel, and you hafta read the entire essay to really get the full monty here. Trust me, this writer knows what's what when it comes to jazz, and he places Lewis' work perfectly into its niche.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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