At its essence, veteran Hammond B-3 master Gregory Lewis’ deliriously funked out, hard swinging and richly improvisational album Organ Monk Going Home is the third (and first post-pandemic) gem in a winsome series that began with Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite (2017) and includes Organ Monk Blue (2018).
Yet besides featuring a hot-wired, soul-intuitive new trio of longtime friends and creative associates (drummer Nasheet Watts, guitarist Kevin McNeal), there’s something thematically deeper in this set of deep Monk cuts that traverses the evergreen Monkography from the freewheeling, lightning paced “Who Knows” through the punchy, hypo-grooving and ever so danceable “Brake’s Sake.” It’s all about the double entendre of the term “home.”
From listening to his dad’s Monk albums growing up to the epiphany of hearing organist Larry Young perform “Monk’s Dream” and his subsequent commitment to adapting Monk’s pieces for the B-3, Lewis’ creative home has always been about mining new Monk magic. The cover photo of Lewis hanging in wild greenery with elephants gives us a hint as to the foundational inspiration for this volume.
While performing a concert of Monk material at Sista’s Place in Brooklyn, the organist was approached by the official photographer of Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe. The resulting friendship led to an exclusive invitation to United Nations functions and to visit Zimbabe after the pandemic.
This return to his proverbial ancestral home of Africa inspired a fresh approach to his musical home of Monk. In addition to other mood swinging highlights like the buoyant, playfully strutting romp “San Francisco Holiday,” the offbeat and bustling “Gallop’s Gallop” and hypnotic, soulfully strutting “Two Timer,” the hard-working, grooving and melodic yet improvisation-inclined trio close the set with the slow simmering Lewis original, “Jaclyn’s Eyes” which adds a surreal, haunting romantic passion to this sublime set.