The world celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Thelonious Monk’s birth in October 2017 – but the inventive and adventurous NYC based Hammond B-3 master Gregory Lewis has been paying homage since, well, his late father played Monk records so often that Lewis’ mother says he heard it in the womb. The Monk influence has inspired Lewis’ entire recording career, with all four of his albums delving into spirited, alternately sensitive and soulful, jazzy and improvisational and hard-rocking fusion-driven re-imaginings of Monk’s genius by themes. Organ Monk Blue features the fiery electric guitarist Marc Ribot and Jeremy Bean Clemons on drums and cymbals.
As per its title, the 8 song collection rambunctiously explores the bluesy side (or at least songs using the color/mood in the title) of Monk – from the offbeat, organ pounding avant-garde rock-jazz fusion jam “Blue Sphere” and the buoyantly funky (and slightly obscure) “Blue Hawk” to the jaunty “Blues Five Spot,” featuring Ribot on lead melody and Lewis doing an expansive percussive solo. Other highlights (without blue in the title) are the reggae tinged “Green Chimneys” (featuring Lewis’ most intense soloing) and the moody, vibey “Mysterioso.” If you’re a fan of the B-3 and Monk, you’ll groove endlessly to what Lewis has created. If you’re a Monk purist, let him open your eyes.