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Steve Smith – Tony Monaco – Vinny Valentino – Groove:Blue – Q-rious

Steve Smith – Tony Monaco – Vinny Valentino – Groove:Blue – Q-rious Music QRM 135, 49:09 ****:

A good cookin’ organ trio.

(Steve Smith – drums; Tony Monaco – Hammond B-3; Vinny Valentino – guitar)

Serendipity is defined as “luck that takes the form finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for”. That certainly is the case as it relates to the genesis of this recording session. A chance encounter by the members of this aggregation in March 2011, who were in Jakarta, Indonesia at the same time but for different reasons lead to a musical empathy. Later that same year, (August 2011), but now in the US, they again were brought together by chance, and decided to act on these fateful encounters to record something on spec, hoping that eventually their efforts would be released.

Now the German label Q-rious has issued a CD entitled Groove:Blue and the name fits perfectly. Harking back to those 1950/1960 organ combos led by the likes of Jimmy Smith, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Brother Jack McDuff and Milt Buckner, the band waxes rhapsodic and digs into the material with gusto. The trio has judiciously chosen the set list that combines a number of well-known jazz and popular numbers, along with several originals from either organist Tony Monaco or guitarist Vinny Valentino. The latter penned the opening number “The Brush Off” which sets the scene perfectly with some tasty brush work from drummer Steve Smith as he dances over his drum kit, with his cohorts offering their solos in sync with his efforts.

“On Green Dolphin Street” has a Latin vibe that provides the rhythmic meaning to the number as Monaco delves into a robust improvisation. The Latin structure continues with that well-worn jazz favorite “Cherokee” by Ray Noble. Pushed along by some aggressive drumming from Smith, both Monaco and Valentino offer some tense counterpoint over the venturesome rhythms set out by Smith.

As a commemorative piece that touches on their Indonesian meeting, Tony Monaco’s “Indonesian Nights” has a solid groove and a funky beat that gives the melody an interesting appeal. The playing is incisive, with both Monaco and Valentino showing curiosity in their solos. Vinny Valentino’s other composition for this session is “Bugalulu”. The number has a Jimmy Smith Got My Mojo Workin’ feel, with some tough organ playing from Monaco and some fleet-fingered covering of the fretboard from Valentino.

While this release should not be looked upon as a trip down memory lane, it is nevertheless a terrific representation of what a good cookin’ organ trio might have sounded like back in the day.

TrackList: The Brush Off; On Green Dolphin Street; Cherokee; It’s Only A Paper Moon; I Remember Jimmy; Indonesian Nights; Bugalulu; Slingshot Blues; That’s All

—Pierre Giroux

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