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Tony Monaco Trio: Intimately Live at the 501

Time to apply the fiery adjectives: This album’s hot, and Monaco’s trio smokes. Originally inspired by Jimmy Smith, Monaco explodes in a climactic style. Exuberance, skillful dynamics and galvanic solo construction are this organ trio’s assets.

Monaco, 42, took up the Hammond B-3 at 16 after initially playing the accordion. Eight years ago his trio with guitarist Robert Kraut and drummer Louis Tsamous came together. This recording documents the group on the 2002 Memorial Day weekend.

The trio pounces on Lalo Schifrin’s “The Cat” (the title tune from Smith’s 1964 Verve album) for the opener. Monaco’s “Takin’ My Time,” a slow blues, follows. In each, the organist borrows Smith’s sustained-note routine as guitar and drums cook deliciously underneath. Coming out of it on the slow blues, he goes into a powerful locked-hands climax.

Duke Ellington’s “Take the Coltrane” and Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” two modern tunes, expand the organist’s harmonic horizons colorfully. Kraut makes sequential connections as he constructs his solo during the former. Tsamous builds a crisp solo on the latter. “I’ll Close My Eyes,” a ballad standard, is all late-night seduction in the group’s hands. “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” swing as smoothly as Basie.

Monaco and company are a welcome addition to the jazz-organ fraternity. Even with his obvious and admitted admiration for Smith, Monaco has plenty of soul to call his own.

Originally Published