May 2006

Tony Monaco
East to West
Chicken Coup

The left foot is a key element in an organ player’s arsenal. When operated with proper dexterity, it can turn a standard blues into a greasy, swinging affair. That’s exactly what happens on “I’ll Remember Jimmy,” organist Tony Monaco’s opening salvo on East to West. That left foot—and maybe his right, too—pumps out a walking bass line that lights a fire of inspiration under his hands and those of guitarist Bruce Forman and drummer Adam Nussbaum.

Monaco knows all the organ tricks, like the perfect moment to get the Leslie spinning, but his melodic chops are the driving force behind these 10 tracks. Even when playing a one-note chorus in “Rudy and the Fox,” he pounds away with a clarity that shows off his precision instead of sounding like mere grandstanding. His arrangement of Benny Goodman’s “Don’t Be That Way” turns it into a slow, sensual number, with tenor saxophonist Byron Rooker setting the mood. Rooker switches to alto on “Donna Lee” and sounds a little thin, especially after the trio sets up a strong New Orleans-style rhythm for the Parker perennial. But with few exceptions, the album’s other standards—“O Barquino,” “Indiana”—come to life in this trio’s hands.

Originally published in May 2006

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