The organ is one of the most phenomenal instruments in jazz. In addition, it is a very rare instrument and not heard often. Prior to the likes of Jimmy Smith and Brother Jack McDuff, the organ was a mere whisper in most circles. Both Jimmy and Jack did remarkably well bringing the organ into the consciousness of jazz connoisseurs. Since those two individuals entered the picture, little has been heard about the contributions the organ has made to jazz, at least not until now. Enter Tony Monaco!
Tony Monaco is one of those rare personalities that has beaten the odds to achieve success. Tony has been playing music since he was eight years old, more specifically, he began playing the accordion. When he was 15 years of age, he was afflicted with a polio like disease that impacted his upper body to the point where he switched to the organ. Because the disease had destroyed many of the nerves in his shoulders, he had to learn to play all over again. The turning point came at age 20 when he visited Jimmy Smith at his club in Woodland Hills, California. During his visit, Tony played a set with his hero, which set the tone for much of what was to come professionally. Although circumstances such as a recurrence of his disease and an year hiatus away from playing his music, Tony Monaco has beaten the odds once again by putting together one of the finest debut jazz organ recordings since the days of Jimmy Smith. What is even more significant, Tony also sings on this release as well, a considerable feat, seeing as how his disease greatly affected his vocal chords during his illness.
"Burnin' Grooves" on the Summit Record Label is the culmination of all Tony Monaco has been striving for as a musician. This album is smooth, rambunctious and very pleasurable to listen to. It is filled with down-home blues oriented organ melodies set to superbly executed rhythmic expressions of first line grooves. This recording reaches out and grabs you in a way reminiscent of the glory days of the chitlin'-circuit, where the organ often reigned supreme. Look for Joey DeFrancesco on piano making his own influential statement with Monaco. Other supporting cast members consisting of Paul Bollenback on guitar and drummer Byron Landham do their part to add further credence to the dynamics of this release. Collectively, Tony and his trio bring the B-3 Hammond organ back into the forefront of jazz. "Burnin' Grooves" is definitely a fine display of the influence Jimmy Smith has had on Tony Monaco. It also shows Tony to be one of the most infectious organ players around today.