(Tony Monaco, Hammond B-3; Bruce Forman, Guitar; Adam Nussbaum, Drums; Byron Rooker, Sax)
Tony Monaco got bit by the Hammond B-3 bug when he was only 12, and as a 16th birthday present he got a call from his idol, Jimmy Smith. Soon after he began to play professionally. Joey DeFrancesco produced his first CD, and Tony has also picked up pointers from Dr. Lonnie Smith; so as you can see, he has a fine Hammond B-3 pedigree. He also has five Summit Records releases under his belt.
On East to West, he initiates his Chicken Coop Record label. The chicken coop moniker is apt as it brings to mind Jimmy Smith’s classic Blue Note 1960 issue, Back at the Chicken Shack, in which Smith poses in front of a chicken coop on the album’s cover.
East to West opens with Monaco’s tribute to Smith, titled I’ll Remember Jimmy. As Jimmy set the standard for all Hammond B-3 players with his usage of the organ’s pedals and his left hand as a walking bass line, while using his right hand for blues and gospel chords, what better way to open this CD?
Monaco hits all the right notes. He has Bruce Forman from the Bay Area assisting on guitar and Adam Nussbaum, on drums. Nussbaum played with John Scofield from 1978 to 1983 so he has a fine funk pedigree himself. The trio is augmented by sax player Byron Rooker.
Monaco mixes things up on this CD, not sticking with typical Hammond B-3 fare as shown by a bossa nova, O Barquino, as well as Joe Henderson’s classic jazz composition, Recorda Me. Don’t be That Way features saxman Rooker at a nice loping pace, as well as a nice solo by guitarist Forman. Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee is a pleasant surprise with more Rooker blowing.
The ballad Softly as in a Morning Sunrise provides Forman with more solo opportunities, and on Like Someone in Love, Forman and Monaco blend well in the Hammond/guitar tradition first made popular by Jimmy Smith with either Eddie McFadden or Kenny Burrell. More typical Hammond B-3 fare is found on tracks Rudy and the Fox and Roz da’ Cat.
In the liner notes, Monaco hopes that other Hammond B-3 players find a home on the Chicken Coop label. For all of us Hammond lovers, let’s hope that his offer for a new “roost” is accepted by other keyboard players. Modesky, Martin and Wood have brought a new young audience of Hammond B-3 lovers into the fold. Now the next generation of Hammond B-3 artists have a label on which to land.
– Jeff Krow