Tony Monaco has moved the Hammond B3 organ beyond its common niche as a vehicle for hit R&B, blues, and soul. Like Larry Young
, Monaco has expanded the instrument beyond the chitlin', black beans, and funk so often associated with this musical mechanism and transformed it into a major improvisational force. The organ in his hands has as much of a modern sound to it as others on the scene, with the possible exception of Joey DeFrancesco
, as evidenced by such modern jazz classics as "Take the Coltrane" and "Footprints" on the play list. Listen to the complex chordal displays on "Mellow Mood," which offers a highly listenable combination of traditional and new organ styles. By no means does Monaco abandon established uses, as he swings like mad on "Sweet Georgia Brown." But here he discards the melody line rather quickly and races down the improvisational trail with such improbable speed that if this were not a live session, one would swear there was a bit of dubbing going on. The coda to this tune is so strong it will likely make the hair on the back of your neck tingle. Monaco also has a technique which allows him to utilize a variety of riff patterns that are sufficiently diverse to assure that not everything on the album sounds the same. In other words, Monaco's CDs will appeal to those beyond B3 devotees. He is helped considerably by the understated guitar of Robert Kraut throughout, but especially on such cuts as "It's Only a Paper Moon" and a haunting "I'll Close My Eyes," which is molded by an elongated harmonic structure. Intimately Live at the 501
is another good effort from this organ trio and is recommended.