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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Organ Monk:
Uwo In The Black




1. Little Rootie Tootie
2. In The Black - My Nephew
3. Humph
4. Skippy
5. Ugly Beauty
6. Zion's Walk
7. GCP
8. Stuffy Turkey
9. Bright Mississippi
10. Thelonious
11. Why Not
12. Crepuscule With Nellie
13. Teo
14. 52nd Street Theme

Nasheet Waits - Drums, cymbals
Ronald Jackson - Guitar
Reginald R. Woods - Tenor sax
Greg "Organ Monk" Lewis - Hammond 3-C organ


Much like Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk is a cottage industry for recording artists, who are looking for interesting and challenging material that can be used to build-out a recording session. While this material would be a natural fit for pianists where Monk's quirky phrasing and harmonic dissonance are easily replicated, doing so on an organ is quite another matter. Nevertheless, Greg Lewis seems to have found the magic potion to bring Monk's music to life with its entire sparking idiosyncrasy on Uwo In The Black.

First, let's deal with the "Uwo" in the title. This refers to the number two in the North African Nubian dialect, and represents the second disc exploring the music of Monk in a planned trilogy by Lewis. This session of ten Monk original tunes and four Lewis compositions, are all done in full power mode with a sharp soul-jazz twist. With some notable exceptions, most of the Monk tunes are rarely-heard second-tier compositions, and are not part of the traditional lexicon of Monk music. However, starting with Little Rootie Tootie, Lewis puts everyone in the right frame of mind, demonstrating that he can deliver big time on the Hammond, and that creating the necessary Monk-inspired dissonance will not be a problem.

Lewis' own compositions, while Monk-inspired, are really modest efforts with the possible exception of Zion's Walk. Here, Lewis and drummer Nasheet Waits, reveal that they are assertive improvisers, and confirm their long musical history together. Reverting to the Monk compositions, Lewis and his cohorts make Ugly Beauty beautiful, with both Lewis and tenor sax man Reginald Woods offering a fastidious rendition of the tune. Bright Mississippi takes full advantage of the quartet, and their understanding of the tune's origins as the chord progression from Sweet Georgia Brown. Moving on to Crepuscule With Nellie, which Monk had dedicated to his wife, Lewis shows his meaningful control of resonance and touch to deliver the goods.

While some purists might think that Monk and the organ together is akin to trying to spread hard butter on bread, nevertheless Greg Lewis and the band have delivered an album that is time and again audacious.

Pierre Giroux

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